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A critical look at the past week in boxing
Never has a boxing nickname been more appropriate.
Naoya “Monster” Inoue gave an awe-inspiring performance this past Tuesday in Saitama, Japan, unleashing what might be an unmatched combination of speed and power to annihilate Nonito Donaire in two rounds.
The unified bantamweight champion, in his prime at 29, seems to be as close to flawless as a boxer can get. He’s No. 2 on Boxing Junkie’s pound-for-pound list but creeping up on No. 1 Terence Crawford.
Skeptics (if there are any) might point out that he looked human in his first fight with the Filipino-American, in 2019. Donaire pushed Inoue as hard as anyone has en route to losing a unanimous decision in Saitama.
However, Inoue in that fight suffered a broken orbital bone, which can be so painful that some fighters who with the injury have to quit immediately. Inoue fought through it against a hard-punching, future Hall of Famer to maintain his perfect record.
That performance made it clear to me that Inoue has unusual toughness to go with all his other off-the-charts attributes.
I also have to say that I feared for Donaire’s safety going into the rematch. The injury had healed 100%. And Donaire is 39, which told me that he might not be the same fighter he was in 2019 in spite of subsequent knockout victories over Nordine Oubaali and Reymart Gaballo.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised that Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs) stopped Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs). It was the way he stopped him that left me in awe. It was as if Donaire was run over by a speeding Ferrari. He didn’t know what it him.
I don’t think anyone at 118 pounds could give Inoue a significant challenge, which might mean that the former 108- and 115-pound titleholder will have to move up to 122 to get a meaningful fight. That’s where united titleholder Stephen Fulton resides.
Is Fulton too big of a reach for Inoue? I hope we get the opportunity to find out.
Middleweight contender Jaime Munguia got the job done against Jimmy Kelly on Saturday in Anaheim, California, putting him down three times and stopping him in the fifth round of a scheduled 12-round super middleweight bout.
However, he struggled for four-plus rounds, which might not bode well for his future.
Kelly, a clever, athletic boxer, frustrated Munguia with his stick-and-move tactics as the Mexican tried to figure out a way to slow him down. He never really did solve the puzzle. He just happened to catch the Irishman with a left hook in Round 5, which led to two more knock downs and the end of the fight.
Of course, Munguia (40-0, 32 KOs) deserves credit for his accomplishment. He didn’t land the pivotal punch accidently. He saw an opening and seized it, which is what good fighters do.
At the same time, how would a better, more durable middleweight do against Munguia? Jermall Charlo, for example. Charlo can box and move like Kelly did but he can take a punch and deliver his own damaging blows, something Kelly (26-3, 10 KOs) couldn’t do.
Munguia wants that fight for obvious reasons. Charlo holds one of the 160-pound titles, which Munguia covets. And, belts aside, it would be the biggest, most-lucrative fight in his career.
The two seemed to have reached a deal to fight next month but negotiations fell apart over television rights, a problem that might preclude the matchup from happening at all. Charlo is affiliated with Showtime and Fox, Munguia with DAZN.
And Charlo reportedly is in talks to face Tim Tszyu, which appears to be bad news for Munguia.
If Munguia doesn’t get the Charlo fight, he said he might move up to 168 rather than wait until after unified titleholder Gennadiy Golovkin fights 168-pound champion Canelo Alvarez in September or face another beltholder, Demetrius Andrade, who might give Munguia all kinds of problems.
If he does tangle with Charlo? It’s a compelling matchup. However, I would make Charlo a bigger favorite after what I saw on Saturday.
Nonito Donaire lasted less than two full rounds in his rematch with Naoya Inoue. Associated Press
I hated to see Donaire go out that way, assuming that he’s finished. And I know I’m not alone.
The former four-division titleholder became a fan favorite and must-see attraction long ago because of his engaging personality, exciting style, explosive power and passion for the sport. Everyone loves Nonito Donaire.
That’s why it was difficult to watch him get destroyed so thoroughly by Inoue. Other great fighters have suffered similar fates but that doesn’t make it easy to witness.
But let’s not feel too sorry for the Filipino-American. He had accomplished so much in his career that his recent success – the solid effort against Inoue and KOs of Oubaali and Reymart – seemed like bonus points, which were unnecessary for him to enter the Hall of Fame one day.
Donaire, a warrior until the end, made a tremendous statement just by agreeing to face one of the most-feared fighters in the world a second time. He said with his actions that if was going to continue to fight, he was going to do it against the best possible opposition. That should be a lesson for other top fighters.
And it wasn’t as if he showed up to lose. He genuinely believed he had made the necessary adjustments from the first fight to beat his rival in the rematch.
That seems almost foolish after the fact but that was Donaire, whose unwavering belief in himself was one reason he enjoyed so much success. He saw himself as a great fighter. And great fighters almost always find ways to win.
If we’ve seen the last of Donaire in the ring, he will have left behind so many wonderful memories. The break-through, one-punch knockout of Vic Darchinyan in 2007, the breathtaking stoppages that followed, his Fight of the Year campaign in 2012, his late-career comeback and more.
They don’t make ’em much better than Nonito Donaire.
Edgard Berlanga apologized on Sunday for biting opponent Roamer Alexis Angulo and then joking about it Saturday night in New York. The mea culpa was a smart move but doesn’t erase the fact that he crossed a line and will most likely pay a price, whether it’s a suspension, fine or both from the New York State Athletic Commission. Berlanga won the 10-round fight by a decision but it was a rough night for him. … Condolences to those close to 24-year-old South African boxer Simiso Buthelezi, who died from a brain injury a few days after a fight against countryman Siphesihle Mntungwa on June 5 in Durban. A disturbing video of an injured, disoriented Buthelezi throwing punches at no one in a corner in the 10th and final round was widely circulated on the internet. The referee stopped the fight at that moment and Buthelezi collapsed shortly afterward. He died in a hospital. Making matters worse, Mntungwa has said that he is suicidal over his opponent’s death. Ring deaths in boxing are uncommon but they’re always excruciating.