By Keith Idec
Jamie McDonnell isn’t the least bit concerned about what’s supposed to happen Friday night in Tokyo.
The defending WBA bantamweight champion realizes most experts expect Naoya Inoue to knock him out in their 12-round, 118-pound title fight at Ota City General Gymnasium. Japan’s Inoue (15-0, 13 KOs) will fight for the first time within the bantamweight division, but the former light flyweight and super flyweight champion is commonly considered one of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
For the comparatively overlooked McDonnell, this title defense in enemy territory represents a chance to completely change the career of the 32-year-old Brit.
“When I beat Inoue, everyone’s gonna know my name all across the world,” McDonnell said during a press conference Wednesday in Tokyo. “So that’s given me motivation.”
McDonnell (29-2-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC), of Doncaster, England, will make the seventh defense of the WBA bantamweight championship he won in May 2014.
The 25-year-old Inoue, nicknamed “Monster,” has knocked out 87 percent of his opponents and is listed as a 7-1 favorite. McDonnell hasn’t been knocked out during a pro career that spans 12½ years.
The 5-feet-9½ McDonnell stands 4½ inches taller than Inoue, and feels he’ll be able to use his height and reach to out-box his heavily favored opponent.
“I have a good understanding that Naoya Inoue is a great boxer and a knockout artist,” McDonnell told Sky Sports recently, “and he’s one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound. But I can box with anyone.
“I am unbeaten for the last 10 years and I am a longtime world champion, for four years. I do not think that Naoya Inoue has fought someone like me his entire career. There is a difference in the boxing level between me and him.”
McDonnell hasn’t lost since dropping back-to-back decisions to Chris Edwards (then 10-12-3) in December 2007 and Lee Haskins in March 2008 (then 16-2).
The McDonnell-Inoue bout will be streamed live in the United States on the ESPN+ app Friday as part of a doubleheader that’ll start at 7:15 a.m. ET/4:15 a.m. PT. The telecast will start with Japan’s Ken Shiro (12-0, 6 KOs) defending his WBC light flyweight title against Mexico’s Ganigan Lopez (34-7, 19 KOs) in a 12-round rematch.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.