Naoya Inoue needs no reminder that his gifts inside the ring would be wasted without someone – like Nonito Donaire – on whom he can test them.
The idea that a boxer’s talents are only valuable insofar as he can showcase them against the best opposition in the sport was not lost on the 29-year-old Japanese champion. The hard hitting bantamweight collected his third belt in the division with a demolition job of future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire in their highly anticipated 12-round, 118-pound rematch last week at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Unlike their barnburner in 2019, in which Inoue won narrowly on points, Donaire was no match for the Japanese dynamo's unique amalgam of speed and power this time around. The Filipino veteran, who has amassed titles across four divisions in an accomplished career, was dropped once in round one and round two, before the referee waved the bout off in the second round.
Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs) was all class in the aftermath, noting in his post-fight interview that his accomplishments would mean little without an opponent who is of the caliber of Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs).
“Without Nonito I can’t do this,” Inoue said. “At the finals of the WBSS (World Boxing Super Series), and two years and seven months later, he (Donaire) won the WBC belt and came back to fight against me.”
Donaire, 39, bounced back from his first loss to Inoue to win the WBC 118-pound title with a fourth-round stoppage of then titlist Nordine Oubaali of France. Donaire followed that up with another hair-rising performance, a fourth-round stoppage of countryman Reymart Gaballo.
“That’s why we are here and that’s why I can shine like this,” Donaire said. “Thank you Nonito for everything.”
Inoue also noted that he would like to unify all four belts in the bantamweight division. Paul Butler of England holds the WBO belt. If that fight is not able to be made in a timely fashion, Inoue also floated the idea of moving up in weight and competing presumably at 122 pounds.
“My aim is to be the undisputed champion,” Inoue said. “If I can do that within the year in 2022, I would love to stay in this division. But If I can’t, I am capable of [going up in weight] and fighting in the upper division.”