By Elliot Foster
Naoya Inoue blasted his way through to the final of the World Boxing Super Series with a scintillating stoppage win.
The WBA ‘regular’ champion at bantamweight took on Puerto Rico’s IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Inoue, whose last fight was a 70-second demolition of Juan Carlos Payano, will go on to face Nonito Donaire in the showpiece of the tournament, with the winner coming out with the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the Ring Magazine title.
The fight, exclusively live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN Stateside, took place at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
Inoue had Rodriguez down three times in two rounds before the referee, Michael Alexander, called a halt to proceedings at one minute and 19 seconds of the second stanza.
“I came out looking to perform impressively and I did that tonight,” ‘The Monster’ said afterwards. “I’ve always had a good feeling and I wanted to keep that up. He came out in the first round and gave me a lot of pressure. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out after the first round but I got the win.
“I felt very much at home and I’m very appreciative of Glasgow for that.”
Donaire, for his part in the Super Series, beat Ryan Burnett in the quarter-finals after the Ulsterman was forced away from the ring through injury.
He was then meant to take on WBO champion Zolani Tete, but the South African suffered a shoulder injury and ‘Filipino Flash’ instead knocked out Stephon Young, the reserve, inside six rounds at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana to make it to the final.
“Nonito has a great career record and I respect him a lot. I look forward to fighting him, but I just don’t know how yet,” Inoue added. “I’ll go to the drawing board again, work on it and come back to the tournament to beat Nonito.”
Donaire responded, in his usual gentlemanly fashion, saying: “It was destiny for us to meet each other at some point. He’s a fighter with great power, great intelligence and that makes me feel like I’m 21 again because it excites me.”