Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 19-0 (16) overcame some rocky moments to outpoint Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire 40-6 (26) over 12-rounds to unify the bantamweight division and claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the final of the World Boxing Super Series at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Thursday night.
The undefeated Inoue, who now holds both the IBF and WBA championships at 118-pounds, suffered a cut over his right eye in the second round and was rocked in the ninth before dropping Donaire with a body shot during the 11th frame.
The fast-paced fight presented a thrilling spectacle to the crowd of 20,000 people who filled the arena.
When the dust settled all three judges awarded the bout to Inoue with scores of 117-109, 116-111 and 114-113.
The 26-year-old Inoue, who has won world championships in three separate weight classes, paid credit to his veteran opponent after the fight.
“Donaire was a very, very strong opponent,” Inoue said.
“This is the first cut I have had in my career. I think Donaire is a true champion.
“Winning the Ali Trophy is the biggest thing so far in my career and I see a bright future in front of me.
“I am not the greatest of all time yet, but that is the goal.”
Inoue was presented with the Muhammad Ali Trophy by Japanese boxing legend and former flyweight and bantamweight world champion Fighting Harada.
“We’ve seen ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, ‘The Thriller in Manilla’ and now we have seen the ‘Drama in Saitama,” said Kalle Sauerland, chief boxing officer of the WBSS.
“It was incredible. Just when you think it can’t get any better coming from the super-lightweight final with Prograis and Taylor at The O2 in London you fly over here… amazing fight week, 20,000 people at the Saitama Arena.
“This was the Fight of the Year. It was a very close fight. Hats off to Nonito Donaire and what can you say about Inoue, unbelievable.
“This fight for me, out of the live fights I’ve seen, is definitely the best I ever, ever seen. I’ve said it before, the World Boxing Super Series brings the best against the best. The boxing gods are smiling at us tonight.”