How about some Friday morning boxing live from Japan? That’s right, May 25th marks the return of Japanese star Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (15-0, 13 KOs), who is moving up from super-flyweight (115 lbs) to bantamweight (118 lbs) to challenge WBA champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1 NC, 13 KOs). Now when I say WBA champion, I mean the “regular” belt, which is a secondary title, as Ryan Burnett is the “super” champion, and that’s because the WBA loves making boxing titles that much more confusing.
Anyway, this is a major fight on multiple fronts, as not only is Inoue seeking to continue his run of dominance in a bigger weight class, but a win would confirm his spot in the stacked World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, which features Ryan Burnett, WBO champion Zolani Tete, and IBF champion Manny Rodriguez. We might even see McDonnell in the tournament, win or lose.
Usually, fights based in Japan are not shown in the United States, but ESPN+ has picked up the rights thanks to Top Rank Boxing. You can watch both this bout, as well as a junior flyweight championship rematch between Ken Shiro vs. Ganigan Lopez, live on the ESPN+ subscription service at 7 AM ET/4 AM PT. Viewers in the United Kingdom can catch the event on Sky Sports Main Event at 1 PM local time.
How do these two stack up?
Inoue: 25 years old | 5’4” | 68” reach | Orthodox stance
McDowell: 32 years old | 5’10” | 72” reach | Orthodox stance
What have these two done recently?
Inoue: W – Yoan Boyeaux (TKO) | W – Antonio Nieves (RTD) | W – Ricardo Rodriguez (TKO)
McDowell: NC – Liborio Solis | W – Liborio Solis (UD) | W – Fernando Vargas (TKO)
How did these two get here?
A prodigious talent as an amateur, Inoue turned professional in 2012, and in just his sixth professional fight, he became the WBC junior flyweight champion by knocking out Adrian Hernandez. Two fights later, Inoue would move up two weight classes to super-flyweight, and quickly dispatch Omar Narvaez in two rounds to take the WBO version of the title. He went on to defend that title seven more times, and the feared power-puncher is taking his talents to bantamweight, which may be of some disappointment to fans who wanted to see him take on the top names at super-flyweight, namely Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas, and Juan Francisco Estrada.
McDonnell went from top British and European-level bantamweight to a major world champion with his somewhat controversial win over Mexico’s Julio Ceja in 2013. His reign as IBF champion ended quickly, as he failed to meet his mandatory challenger within the specified time frame. One year later, McDonnell won the WBA “regular” title with a 10th round KO over Thailand’s Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat. McDonnell would have a pair of entertaining bouts with Tomoki Kameda, coming away with decisions each time out. He’s probably still fortunate to have his belt, because he absolutely got a gift decision vs. Liborio Solis in 2016, then the rematch ended in a no-contest due to an accidental clash of heads. Make no mistake about it though, McDonnell is a quality fighter, and he’s going to enemy territory to defend his title.
What can fans expect?
Inoue is a fireplug. He punches a lot and he not only destroys you with slick combination punching and relentless pressure, but a brutal body attack that has felled so many opponents. “The Monster” is a very apt nickname when you watch him compete. I mean, just look at this highlight reel!
McDonnell is not particularly powerful or fast, but he possesses challenging physical advantages over Inoue, and he has very good technical skills that could pose problems for his opponent. Unfortunately, Inoue being faster, the harder puncher, and a good counterpuncher makes this a tough task for the Englishman. Inoue is a heavy favorite, and I think he turns it on late and gets another stoppage. Don’t be surprised if it goes the distance, though.
Prediction: Naoya Inoue, TKO-11
Why should you watch?
Inoue is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. McDonnell is a very formidable test for him. This is a big fight for both men and it surely will not disappoint.