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Jaime McDonnell vs. Naoya Inoue in the works for May in Japan


By Tim Royner: WBA World bantamweight champion Jaime McDonnell could be facing former WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue next rather than fighting Liborio Solis, who he was given a controversial 12 round win over in their first fight in November of 2016.

McDonnell’s promoter Eddie Hearn is working on putting together the McDonnell-Inoue fight for May in Inoue’s home country of Tokyo, Japan.

Inoue is moving up from super flyweight where he held the WBO 115 lb. title and was considered the best fighter in that weight class in the minds of some boxing fans.

“Jamie originally planned to move up after the Liborio Solis fight but this is a huge fight and he loves the idea of the challenge,” Hearn said to “I’m hoping we can close this week.”

Inoue has taken flak from boxing fans for his decision to defend his WBO super flyweight title against the weaker contenders in the weight class, and then moving up to bantamweight without fighting the best guys at 115 like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, Khalid Yafai and Jerwin Ancajas. Inoue didn’t fight any of those guys. Inoue’s decision to move up to 118 before he even proved himself against the best fighters at the weight class he’s departing is curios one.

At the very least, Inoue should have fought Rungvisai, as the Thailand fighter has expressed interest in fighting him. Moving up to 118 and going after what some believe is the weakest of the 4 champions in McDonnell is also a questionable move on Inoue’s part. The champions that are considered the best at 118 are Zolani Tete and Luis Nery. McDonnell and Ryan Burnett are viewed by many to be the weaker champions.

It’s unclear why the 24-year-old Inoue (15-0, 13 KOs) would be interested in fighting McDonnell (29-2-1, 13 KOs) for his WBA ‘regular’ 118 lb. title, as he’s not considered the main WBA champion. Ryan Burnett is top WBA bantamweight champion with his ‘Super World’ 118 lb. title. The World Boxing Association has 2 champions at bantamweight instead of just 1. McDonnell occupies the lower position. The only rationale for Inoue going after McDonnell’s WBA World title is if he believes the WBA will then order a fight between him and WBA Super World belt holder Ryan Burnett after that. If that happens, it’ll be interesting to see if Burnett takes the fight for if he vacates his WBA title to swerve the Inoue fight like he did recently in vacating his IBF 118 title after he was ordered to face the dangerous mandatory Emmanuel Rodriguez (17-0, 12 KOs). Burnett might as well take the fight with Inoue, because there won’t be any easy marks for him to win a title like there was when he captured his WBA belt recently against Zhanat Zhakiyanov and when he won the IBF title in beating Lee Haskins in June 2017. There are no longer any of those types of champions holding belts at 118. The current champions at 118 are Luis Nery, Zolani Tete and McDonnell.

McDonnell’s recent rematch with Liborio Solis (25-5-1, 11 KOs) ended in a no contest in 3 rounds last November in Monte Carlos. The fight was abruptly halted in the 3rd round due to McDonnell suffering a cut. McDonnell’s corner never got a chance to work on the cut to try and halt the bleeding. It was a good deal for McDonnell, because he kept his WBA World bantamweight title. With McDonnell now likely to face Inoue next, it leaves Solis in a bad position. He’s being skipped over by Inoue instead of him getting a rematch. It works out well for McDonnell, because Solis clearly had his number. If Inoue beats McDonnell, which would seem likely, it’ll be interesting to see if the WBA orders Inoue to defend against Solis or if they instead order him to face WBA Super World 118 lb. champion Ryan Burnett. Solis would be the forgotten man in that situation.

McDonnell is expected to move up to super bantamweight after his next fight. It won’t matter if McDonnell loses to Inoue, because it’ll be a good payday him against a fighter that was viewed as the best fighter at 115.

McDonnell has held the WBA bantamweight title since 2014. He’s made 5 successful title defenses. His last 2 fights have come against Solis with the first fight being a highly questionable 12 round decision in 2016, and then the rematch last November resulting in a no decision when the ringside doctor stopped the fight during round 3 due to McDonnell suffering a cut. There is still a lot of unfinished business between McDonnell and Solis, but it looks like that business will forever be unfinished. McDonnell will bypass Solis and take a fight with Inoue. It’ll be up to the WBA what they want do with Solis if/when Inoue beats McDonnell to win the WBA World bantamweight title. It’s likely Inoue will face Burnett for the full WBA title right away and leave Solis for when the WBA has the freed-up WBA ‘regular’ title to be fought for.

With Inoue’s punching power there are no worries about judging. McDonnell and Inoue can go back to Monte Carlo, the same place where McDonnell’s 2 fights with Solis took place, and the outcome of the fight will likely be conclusive this time. Inoue will make sure he doesn’t leave it in the judges’ hands.

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