It was the perfect storm for Nordine Oubaali in terms of the fight he wanted next to help set up the super fight he craves for the future.
The two-time Olympian and current unbeaten bantamweight titlist from France maintained his perfect ways in the pro ranks following a 12-round unanimous decision win over Japan’s Takuma Inoue. The bout took place Nov. 7 on the road in Saitama, Japan, as the chief support to Takuma’s older brother, Naoya Inoue’s rousing points win over Nonito Donaire in their fantastic unification bout which is a leading Fight of the Year candidate.
The elder Inoue (19-0, 16KOs) remained undefeated while claiming top honors in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament in the process, but suffered significant facial damage over the course of their 12-round bout. It wasn’t enough to get Donaire (40-6, 26KOs) over the hump but still a remarkable performance deep in the twilight of his incredible career.
“Two of the best fighters in the world stood in the ring. It was fought at a high skill level,” Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs) told BoxingScene.com of the bout, which he was able to enjoy after registering his second successful title defense. “I do believe the fight exposed some weaknesses in Naoya. Donaire did a good job of exposing those flaws.
“It was the first time that Naoya was tested. Nonito was past his best days and also coming down in weight. If he was in his prime and at a heavier weight class it would have been a different fight.”
Having scored his own clean win over the younger Inoue, there’s a strong likelihood of Oubaali getting his own crack at the unbeaten, unified titlist and pound-for-pound entrant. Naoya Inoue announced after the fight a promotional pact with Top Rank and ESPN, though plans to consummate the relationship depend on how quickly he heals from injuries sustained on fight night.
As if a reason is needed to push for a unification bout, simplifying matters is Oubaali’s alliance with promotional outlet MTK Global, which has its own platform deal with ESPN+. Oubaali headlined a summertime ESPN+ card, stopping Arthur Villanueva in the 6th round of their July bout, marking the first defense of the title he claimed in a 12-round win over former amateur rival Rau’Shee Warren.
Factor in the brother’s keeper angle, and there’s little reason to not expect a head on collision at some point in 2020 as long as both continue to win.
“I told everyone after my fight and after Naoya’s fight, I’m ready for him,” insists Oubaali. “Any time, any place anywhere. Whether in his hometown or my hometown. Whenever he wants, I am ready.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox