By Jake Donovan
Tension remains high between Emmanuel Rodriguez and Naoya Inoue, as the pair of unbeaten bantamweights brace for their title fight this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland.
Wednesday’s final pre-fight conference lacked the physical drama that came with the media workout session one day prior, where Shingo Inoue—Naoya’s father and trainer—was reportedly shoved by a member of Rodriguez’s camp. Still, the glare in the eyes of both fighters spoke louder than words or actions.
The two will collide in the semifinal round of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, which takes place at Glasgow’s SSE Arena. Headlining the show is Glasgow’s own Josh Taylor (14-0, 12KOs), whom challenges unbeaten 140-pound titlist Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12KOs) to determine whom will face Regis Prograis in the WBSS finals.
Puerto Rico's Rodriguez (19-0, 12KOs) enters as the defending titlist, but—as is the case with the evening’s main event—it’s the challenger who comes in as the heavy betting favorite.
In fact, most industry experts not only have Inoue winning this weekend to become a three-division full titlist, but for the unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant to run the table and conquer the tournament outright.
“I entered the World Boxing Super Series tournament to win the Ali Trophy,” stated Japan’s Inoue (17-0, 15KOs), referring to the Muhammad Ali Trophy awarded to the final winner of each tournament weight division. “I will be winning it.”
Inoue stormed into the semifinals in highlight-reel fashion, flattening former bantamweight titlist Juan Carlos Payano in just 70 seconds last October. The bout officially kicked off season two of the WBSS tournament, with the bout taking place in Inoue’s hometown of Yokohoma, Japan.
Saturday’s quest to become a three-division titlist—having won titles at 108- and 115-pounds while also currently reigning as a secondary bantamweight beltholder—will mark his first career fight in the United Kingdom. He doesn't expect it to be as brief as his quarterfinals win, but is fully determined to provide an equally explosive ending
“I'm aiming for the knockout, of course,” promises Inoue, one of the few in the industry who doesn’t offer a token ‘prepared to go 12 rounds’ response when prompted for a prediction ahead of any fight. “Rodriguez, of course, is a great fighter, but I plan to knock him out.”
The winner of Saturday’s bantamweight title fight figures to be a heavy favorite versus four-division titlist Nonito in the tournament finals later this year.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox