A bloodied Naoya Inoue won a bruising thriller over Nonito Donaire of the Philippines by unanimous decision Thursday to capture the WBA super bantamweight title. (photos by Naoki Fukuda)
The fight, the bantamweight final of the World Boxing Super Series, earned the 26-year-old Japanese fighter the Muhammad Ali Trophy. Inoue, who entered the fight at Saitama Super Arena as the IBF bantamweight champ, improved to 19-0 in his pro career.
Donaire opened a cut above Inoue's right eye in the second round. That forced the Japanese star, known as "Monster," to protect the eye and fight a cagey tactical battle that kept him ahead on points despite absorbing some punishing blows from his 36-year-old opponent.
After a couple of even rounds, Inoue, now bleeding from the nose as well, put the pedal to the metal in the final minute of the fifth, backing Donaire to the ropes and raining blows on him until he was saved by the bell.
Donaire battled back, however, now and then rocking the crowd favorite with some ferocious punches. Inoue, who had only needed to go the distance in two of his previous fights, showed he could stay in the ring and look for openings. A brutal Inoue left to the ribs brought Donaire to his knees in the 11th round.