By: Nick Skok
It was reported by Sky Sports this morning that the WBA ‘world’ champion at bantamweight, Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1 13 KO) of England is close to finalizing a deal with Japan’s Naoya Inoue (15-0 13 KOs). Eddie Hearn, the Englishman’s promoter, was quoted as saying: “I’m hoping we can close [the deal] this week.”
Naoya Inoue, the WBO super flyweight champion, will be moving up in weight and fighting at 118lbs for the first time. The decision to move up to bantamweight was based in large part to trouble making the super flyweight limit of 115lbs combined with the fact it was no longer worth the effort after he could not secure a unification fight with any of the division’s other champions, including Hearn’s own Kal Yafai. Only wanting to fight top competition, Inoue’s handler Hideyuki Ohashi told me on prior occasions that he has made substantial offers to a number of recognizable names at the super flyweight division but obviously to no avail.
For McDonnell, he was expected to move up to super bantamweight after his last fight. Hearn explained: “Jamie originally planned to move up after the Liborio Solis fight but this is a huge fight and he loves the idea of the challenge.” McDonnell has two blemishes on his record but those came in succession over nine years ago. Since then he’s racked up 21 consecutive wins and a no-decision in his last fight (head-butt). During that span he also won the IBF’s bantamweight championship but was later stripped of the title for not agreeing to fight his mandatory in a timely fashion.
McDonnell has held the WBA title since beating Tabitimdaeng Na Rachawat by a 10th round knockout on May 31, 2014. McDonnell has defended the title 6 times. The WBA ‘super’ champion at the same weight is Ryan Burnett. Burnett is also promoted by Eddie Hearn. Matching those two up to determine the WBA’s true champion seems logical but the WBA instead ordered Burnett to face somebody else – a disappointment for English boxing fans who’ll enjoy the pleasure of Burnett’s participation on the next Anthony Joshua undercard but not McDonnell’s. One man’s loss is another’s gain for Inoue.
Known as “the monster” for his devastating power, Naoya Inoue is a two division champion, racking up thirteen knockouts in only fifteen career fights . McDonnell, to his credit, also has thirteens KO’s but over a span of thirty-two contests. Inoue has successfully defended his super flyweight title seven times during that span but has struggled to attract truly viable competition. Fighting McDonnell would be a major upgrade to Inoue’s class of opposition and international profile as McDonnell is well known in England, a boxing hotbed for talent and fans.
Inoue fought abroad for the first time last September on the critically acclaimed HBO “Super Fly” card. His opponent, Antonio Nieves, quit on his stool after a one-sided, six round punishment. Inoue followed up that performance with a TKO win at the end of the year during a week that sees several top native fighters competing during the Japanese holiday period leading up to the New Year.
The Inoue-McDonnell fight would take place in Japan where it could attract a healthy gate due to Inoue’s continuing rising star in the land of the rising sun. McDonnell adds to the local intrigue as he’s already aquatinted with the Japanese boxing community. In 2015, he handed previously undefeated Tomoki Kameda consecutive losses.
A date in May is being discussed for the matchup. McDonnell suffered a terrible cut in his last fight, a rematch with Liborio Solis, and needs time for that to heal properly.
Nick Skok writes for NoSparring.com