In a week that gave us numerous world-class fighters handing in elite level performances, including Josh Taylor, Deontay Wilder, Gary Russell Jr, and Ryan Burnett, that in a normal week would have earned them our “Fighter of the week” award. However, this was not a normal week. One man put on a monstrous performance that earned him this week’s award Naoya Inoue catapulted into the finals of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament where he will face WBA 118-pound “Super” champ the legendary “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire. Inoue a four-division world champion ran his undefeated record to 18-0 (16) scoring his eighth consecutive stoppage. The Monster has fought three times in the last 12 months and all three fights have ended in Inoue scoring a knockout within two rounds. He has fought a total of eight minutes in three fights. The bantamweight champ has scored two first knockouts and Saturday’s second-round knockout in the last 12 months.
It was business as usual for the Japanese world-champion. After Rodriguez scored with a few good shots in the opening minutes of the fight. Inoue settled the pace down in the last moments of the opening stanza and caught the attention of Manny Rodriguez with stiff right hands that stopped him from charging in. The end came abruptly in the second round as Inoue caught Rodriguez with a lightning-quick left-hook that put the Puerto Rican down for the first time. Rodriguez quickly got to his feet, but the Puerto Rican was still badly hurt, and Inoue went in for the kill and dropped Rodriguez for a second time with a vicious body shot. Again the determined champ made it to his feet but a final flurry of laser-like power shots from Inoue closed the show and put Rodriguez down for a third and final time.
Post-fight the champ was pleased with his performance saying “I came out looking to be aggressive, and I kept that going and I did well tonight. He won the first round and I didn’t know how it was going to turn out after that,I felt very much at home; everyone here made me feel at home. Donaire has had a great career and is a great fighter. I respect him and I look forward to fighting him.” Inoue’s future is bright having advanced to the finals of the WBSS where he will fight Donaire. Additionally, Inoue has also allegedly reached a deal withTop Rank following the finals of the WBSS Tournament where he will fight on ESPN, the perfect place for him to land. The network already has a working agreement with former unified bantamweight champ Ryan Burnett as well as superstar prospect Joshua “Don’t Blink” Greer Jr. Two big money fights that could both be made realistically in the very near future.