Boxing fans will get a rare treat on Thursday with a world-class fight that doesn't have to interfere with weekend plans, assuming you don't mind getting up early stateside. Naoya Inoue will square off against Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series final, a clash that also serves as a title unification bout.
Inoue will put his IBF world bantamweight title on the line in Saitama, Japan, while Donaire brings his WBA and WBC world bantamweight straps. The undefeated Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs) is a hard-hitting, technical marvel who has dominated boxing's lighter divisions. Ring Magazine ranks "The Monster" as the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) is no slouch, as his world titles can attest, but he's not expected to match Inoue's skill and intensity, While the 36-year-old has beaten several excellent fighters, he has lost when it matters most, with defeats against the likes of Carl Frampton, Jessie Magdaleno and Guillermo Rigondeaux. A win over Inoue would be a big upset and represent a career high for the "Filipino Flash."
Here's how to watch.
Naoya Inoue vs. Nonito Donaire Fight Info
When: Thursday, Nov. 7 at 5 a.m. ET (main card)
Where: Super Arena in Saitama, Japan
TV: Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Mix (UK)
Live stream: DAZN (US, subscription required)
Odds: Inoue -900 (bet $900 to win $100), Donaire +500 (bet $100 to win $500)
Odds courtesy of OddsChecker.com and updated as of Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m. ET.
Based on what Inoue's done so far in the WBSS, there's a good chance he ends up dominating Donaire in the final. The quarterfinal saw Inoue knock out Juan Carlos Payano on a left-right combo unleashed with blinding speed. In the semifinal, Emmanuel Rodriguez managed to reach the second round before Inoue ended his night with a vicious body punch. Here's the highlight, per DAZN USA:
This has been Inoue's entire career. He has incredible speed, is great at setting traps and is a ruthless finisher. Five of his last six fights have ended within three rounds. At 26 years old, he may only just be entering his prime.
Donaire certainly has a monumental task in front of him. The underdog is a naturally bigger man, coming down to bantamweight after a few years in the super bantamweight and featherweight ranks. He may be better able to handle Inoue's power, but his opponent's brilliance in other areas may prove to be too much to overcome. At 36 years old, any diminishing speed or conditioning could spell doom for him.
Donaire certainly hasn't been helped by the lack of competition up to this point in the WBSS. He beat Ryan Burnett in the quarterfinal after the Englishman suffered a back injury. He was then set to face the excellent Zolani Tete in the semifinal, but Tete got hurt in training and had to pull out of the bout. Donaire ended up dispatching the replacement fighter, Stephon Young, in six rounds.
Despite the easy path to the final, Donaire expects to be in his top form on Thursday.
"The tougher the fight, the more I show up. That's why I always seek to fight the best, and that's why I've always gone to seek the bigger fights because it always brings out the best in me. This fight [against Inoue] definitely is going to bring out the best of me in every way," he said, per ESPN.com's Steve Kim.
Like Inoue, Donaire knows how to break down an opponent with power punches. However, Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ believes Donaire's best punch could be his downfall:
"Donaire's main tactical flaw is a simple one, and it's been there forever, even back when he was a top P4P guy, and it comes from his greatest asset, the left hook. Donaire has a habit of falling in love with that punch to the point he can be one-dimensional and ineffective. The good news is that, again, his left hook is a genuine eraser, a monster punch. But if it's all he's looking for, he becomes predictable. It may be his only legitimate chance at the upset on Thursday, but Inoue will be prepared for it, too. It can be neutralized."
It won't be at all surprising if the fight takes a couple of rounds to get going, with both boxers aware of each other's gifts. However, Inoue's ability to dismantle opponents by attacking both the head and body, coupled with his speed and youth, should see him holding three world titles when the night is done.