FILIPINO superstar Nonito Donaire Jr. may have fallen short in the eyes of the judges but he gave unbeaten Japanese idol Naoya Inoue the fight of his life.
The 26-year-old Inoue, who had a cut above his right eye and a bloody nose, had his hands raised for a unanimous decision win after 12 rounds of non-stop action in the bantamweight finals of the World Boxing Super Series last Nov. 7 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
All three judges had Inoue winning with scores of 116-111, 117-109, 114-113.
The 36-year-old Donaire Jr. had a strong start, landing some heavy blows in the early rounds and even opening a cut above Inoue’s right eye from a left hook in the second round.
Inoue showcased his skills and his power by controlling the middle rounds. Donaire rocked Inoue in the ninth round but failed to finish him off.
“We were surprised that Inoue really had a tough chin. Jun-Jun’s mistake, which he accepted, is that he was looking for the knockout. When Inoue was close to getting knocked down, he failed to throw combinations. If he did follow up, there was a huge chance that it would have been stopped,” Donaire Jr.’s father and trainer Nonito Donaire Sr. told SunStar Cebu.
Inoue sent Donaire Jr. on one knee with a vicious left hook to the ribs in the 11th round.
Jr. showed a ton of heart, surviving the knockdown and fighting up until the final bell.
“If Jun-Jun didn’t get hurt in the 11th. There was a huge chance that he would go bell-to-bell,” Donaire said.
Inoue won the grand Muhammad Ali Trophy and retained his International Boxing Federation bantamweight crown. He also won Donaire’s World Boxing Association bantamweight Super title.
“I have not talked to him what he wants next. We are still resting for now,” said Donaire Sr. “I think that there won’t be a rematch with Inoue. If there will be, it’s just a little chance. Inoue was very close to getting knocked out.”
Inoue improved to 19-0 with 16 knockouts, while Donaire Jr. dropped to 40-6 with 26 knockouts.
Donaire has been one of the Philippines’ best fighters for more than a decade now.
At his advanced age, he still showed everybody that he still has something left in his tank.
His father, however, feels that his son has already given and achieved so much in boxing.
“If it were up to me, I want him to retire already. He has nothing to prove anymore. He has already gained a lot from his boxing,” he said.
Whether Donaire Jr. decides to either continue or hang it up, his place in boxing’s history books is already secured. (EKA)