By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
While many of the so called boxing experts predicted their fight to end via the short route, mostly in favor of Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire correctly saw it as a chess match.
But what he and particularly his corner did not anticipate was how good Inoue and his corner had been in preparing for such type of a fight and how well they had been in making adjustments as the combat ebbed and flowed in the critical moments that decided the eventual winner.
No, seeing the fight in its entirety through the kind facilitation of our editor in chief Dong Secuya, Inoue’s win and Donaire’s loss could not be attributed to the usual youth being served or the young lion prevailing over the old lion king lines.
Though already 37 and ten years older than his foe, Nonito to me never showed his age. He still had the power, moves and reflexes that carried him to many scintillating victories when he was still terrorizing the division years ago. He was christened the Filipino Flash but there has been nothing flashy about his game other than when he got his opponent figured out and in trouble, he usually took him out of there in a flash with his signature killer one hit quitter.
Nonito came with a plan to beat Inoue prepared with his corner and as he had stressed before, his own, based on his own observation of the opponent and how the fight was moving on. By the middle stanzas of the 12 round bout, after both fighters had sized up and felt the power and strength of each other, the strategy seemed to be working well.
There were many instances during that stretch that Nonito made Inoue look very ordinary and vulnerable and in danger of being taken out in a flash. He was looking like the Donaire of old about to smash opponents the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, Jorge Arce, and yes, Toshiaki Nishioka who had all attained some sorts of notoriety like Naoya before this bout.
But to Naoya’s credit, he hung tough and persevered and fought back as hard as he could to weather every stormy episodes even as he always came back to his corner, bruised and bloodied. His corner should be credited with preventing a deep cut he suffered from a blow as early as the second round from getting any worse and tidying him up for every coming rounds till the end.
Curiously every time he got back to his corner, he always asked how well he had done in the rounds and how the fight was going and every time, he got words of advice and assurance from his corner. Though it was in Japanese, they seemed to be telling him that he was doing alright and needed to stay with the fight plan as the opponent was showing signs of fatigue and weakness as the rounds went.
And how true they were. By the end of the ninth round, Nonito was showing the wear and tear of the grueling battle as well as signs of tiring and weakening as Naoya thwarted his every attempt at checkmate.
By the start of the championship rounds as Naoya got his second wind, his corner gave the go signal to implement the final stage of their own fight plan which was to retake the initiative in an all out offensive for victory.
Nonito and his corner seemed to be surprised by this very strong finishing kick by Naoya and it came when Nonito seemed to be all but spent and was waiting for his own second wind.
Unfortunately, this was also the segment where Inoue apart from throwing even harder combinations to the head, begun to vary his offense by introducing another of his dreaded weapon, dedicated body assault. And in one instance in 11th and penultimate round a well placed dig to the body sent Nonito tottering to the canvas for the mandatory eight count as the crowd roared in frenzy.
That clinched the victory for Naoya.
Ironically, body punching was one important aspect missing all night from Nonito’s offense which he had used effectively in slowing down and stopping Ryan Burnett two fights back. He was headhunting most of the time and which his corner appeared to even encourage with the urging of using every punch in the book, including the uppercut.
Nonito lost the fight from his corner. They had a plan but Nonito would only implement it with his own, conceived as the fight wore. He seemed to not even pay mind to the cacophony of advise coming from his corner, including his father, Nonito, Sr in the crucial moments he had Inoue on queer street.
On the other hand, Inoue won the fight from his corner. They had a well conceived and coherent fight plan by which to beat Donaire that Naoya implemented almost to the letter, with necessary adjustments of course.
The plan was to lure Nonito to a war of attrition recognizing both he and Naoya were both tough and durable, taking full advantage of Naoya’s never tested before resiliency and capability to stage a strong comeback and finish.
All but two of Naoya’s victories before this fight came by knockout. One of the fighters to extend him was fellow Japanese Kosei Tanaka who is a very good and talented flyweight at the time they fought till today.
Nonito and his corner may not have considered or expected Naoya to have the capabilities he showed last night, something that Naoya and his corner exploited to the hilt to pull off his greatest career victory thus far.
Naoya deservedly won the World Boxing Super Series final in the bantamweight, winning Nonito’s super belt with the WBA and retaining his IBF and Ring Magazine titles and bringing home the prestigious Muhammad Ali trophy.
Two of the judges scores did not reflect the closeness of the modern classic match between Nonito and Naoya which I think should have been decided by no more than two points ( and either way, had it not been held in Japan).
Younger Takuma Inoue was still raw for the ripped and skilled Nordine Oubali who I think Naoya will target next for the WBC plum.
Now it is up to Johnriel Casimero to salvage the Philippines world title campaign versus Zolani Tete for the WBO bantam belt this November ( to remember, or Filipinos rather forget?)