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Naoya Inoue joining WBSS tourney, could face Ryan Burnett immediately

Image: Naoya Inoue joining WBSS tourney, could face Ryan Burnett immediately

By Scott Gilfoid: Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue (16-0, 14 KOs) blasted the weight drained Jamie McDonnell (29-3-1, 13 KOs) to pieces last Friday night in stopping him in the 1st round to capture his WBA World bantamweight title at the Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.

McDonnell’s 4-year reign as the WBA 118b champion came to a screeching halt at the hands of the knockout artist Inoue. Afterwards, McDonnell looked shaken up emotionally, seeming to not know what hit him, because the fight ended so quickly. McDonnell never got a chance to get properly warmed up before getting stopped Inoue.

“I have received official offer from WBSS before this fight,” Inoue said to “I’m looking forward to enter the tournament and I will train even harder to win the tournament.”

Three division world champion Inoue has joined the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, and his first fight in the tournament is expected to be against WBA Super World bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 KOs). Inoue, 25, is now Burnett’s mandatory challenger, and it appears that the WBSS tournament organizers are going to get the Burnett-Inoue fight underway in the first match. That’s probably not good for the 26-year-old Burnett, who will lucky if he makes it out of the 1st round against Inoue.

Burnett is a tricky fighter though, as we saw in his fight against former IBF World bantamweight champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18 KOs) in their fight last year in October. There was no way on earth that Burnett could beat Zhakiyanov in an actual fight, but he found a way around that by using constant holding and wrestling to keep him from throwing punches. It was an awful to fight to watch because of the holding that Burnett was allowed to get away with by the referee, but it worked for him. Burnett was able to stall out every round and squeak by with an ugly 12 round decision.

For me, I don’t’ think I’ve ever seen a fight that involved as much holding by one fighter before. It was incredulous that Burnett wasn’t disqualified. The fight took place at The SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s very likely that Burnett will use the same game plan against Inoue to keep him from throwing punches. I don’t think it’s going to work nearly as well for Burnett as it did in his fight against Zhakiyanov. Inoue fights well at close quarters, unlike Zhakiyanov, and he’s hard go grab because he throws flurries. If Burnett tries to grab Inoue in a clinch, he could get hit 5 or 6 times before he gets his arms around Inoue each time.

You’ve got to give Burnett credit for entering the WBSS tournament, because a lot of guys would duck it. But it wouldn’t save Burnett from losing his WBA title even if he hadn’t entered the tournament, because he’d have to face Inoue sooner or later, Burnett couldn’t dodge Inoue forever, and it would look bad if he vacated another title. Burnett already vacated his IBF bantamweight strap after he was ordered by the International Boxing Federation to fight Emmanuel Rodriguez.

It was more than a little disappointing that Burnett vacated his IBF belt rather than face Rodriguez. If Burnett did the same thing in giving up his WBA belt to avoid Inoue, then he’d be perceived as a ducker by boxing fans. I think Burnett should have faced Rodriguez rather than giving up his IBF title without a fight. If Burnett wants to be a world champion at bantamweight, then he’s going to need to be able to defend his belts against the top dogs in the division. It’s sometimes easy for champions like Burnett to win belts when facing a weak champion like Lee Haskins and Zhakiyanov, but it’s a different story when you’re asked to defend against talents like Emmanuel Rodriguez and Inoue.

Inoue’s speed, power and body punching ability give him the edge to win the WBSS tournament, but we’ll have to see how he deals with IBF champion Emanuel Rodriguez. He figures to be the toughest test for Inoue, because he’s used to fighting body punchers in his home country of Puerto Rico. Inoue might not have the same luck against Rodriguez as he did against McDonnell. Tete shouldn’t be any problems for Inoue, because he’s never fought a body puncher like him before.

McDonnell reportedly put on 25 pounds of weight after weighing in at 117.5 pounds, and he came into the fight weighing 143 pounds, according to his promoter Eddie Hearn. It’s an incredible amount of weight to put on.

”143,” Hearn said on Twitter when asked how much McDonnell weighed for the Inoue fight.

You’ve got to give McDonnell a ton of credit for being able to take off so much weight in such a short period of time, but that’s not the reason why he lost the fight. The reason why McDonnell lost was because he was A. too slow B. unable to handle Inoue’s body shots C. Fighting off the ropes D. unable to handle Inoue’s hand speed. It was a mistake obviously for McDonnell to have stayed at 118 after his first fight against Liborio Solis in November 2016. When the judges gave McDonnell a controversial 12 round decision win over Solis, he should have viewed that as a signal that he needs to move up in weight to the super bantamweight division, because he should have lost all 12 rounds of the fight in my opinion. McDonnell was battered by Solis in a hopelessly one-sided fight. The scoring by the three judges was nothing short of atrocious. McDonnell looked drained and weak from making weight for the fight. In the World Boxing Association ordered McDonnell-Solis rematch, McDonnell was fortunate to have suffered a cut in the 3rd round that caused the referee to stop the fight without letting him go to his corner.

McDonnell wasn’t fat and out of shape. He looked well trained, but his body is clearly filling out now that he’s 32-years-old. What this means is he’s probably going to need to move up to at least featherweight for him to have any chance of competing without being drained like he was last Friday. I don’t think McDonnell will do that, because there are too many beasts at 126 with major punching power. They would tear the tall, spindly-legged McDonnell apart. McDonnell is obviously going to move to 122 and try and find a way to have some success in that weight class, which won’t be easy for him. There are a lot of talented fighters at super bantamweight like Isaac Dogboe and Rey Vargas that have good punching power, and boxing skills. I hate to say it, but McDonnell’s career as a championship level fighter might be over with at this point. He’s not old, but the main thing that he had going for him was his height and reach in fighting in the 118lb weight class. For that weight class, which is filled with guys that are mostly around 5’5” and shorter, McDonnell was able to use his height and reach advantage to win against guys that have taken him apart if they were the same size as him.

The other contestants in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament are these fighters: IBF belt holder Emmanuel Rodriguez, WBO champion Zolani Tete, and WBA Super World champion Ryan Burnett. The WBC belt is vacant at this time, and it’ll soon be fought for by Tassana Sanpattan and Nordine Oubaali on June 23.

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