Japan's "Monster" Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs) vowed to put on a career-best performance against Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) in Thursday’s WBSS Bantamweight Ali Trophy final at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. “A year ago this tournament started, a year later I am in the final against Nonito Donaire, and I am very grateful for that,” said 26 year-old IBF champion at a jam-packed final press conference in Tokyo.
Inoue (pictured) also said told he grew up being a fan of his Filipino counterpart. “I’ve been watching Nonito’s fights even before I became professional, and he’s one of the fighters who I admire. I am truly proud of myself to be in the ring with him the day after tomorrow."
The Muhammad Ali Trophy was on display on a plinth just on the right side of the Japanese superstar at the top table. “It’s a beautiful trophy, I like the design,” said "The Monster" about the trophy named after "The Greatest". As if he was inspired by Ali's legend, he went on to say: “The winner of this tournament will be crowned as the greatest of the division. I am representing Japan as a professional boxer and I will show the greatest performance of my career as an answer to all the exceptions here. The appeal of the WBSS is that we can decide who is the best in the division. I would like to be victorious, but I’m not stopping there. In the future, I want to be the greatest of all time!”
Said 36 year-old Donaire, the WBA super champion, who has held multiple world championships in four weight classes: “Naoya is the top fighter in the world pound-for-pound which is very exciting for me. But I trust in my ability, and I will be able to adapt to the situation. Fighting Naoya Inoue has given me motivation. I’ve accomplished so much, so I needed someone to motivate me. It’s brought back my youth again because I have to be at my best. Being in this tournament has been tremendous. All these young guys trying to prove themselves and weed out the old generation. But so far, I’ve proven I’m a wall that needs to be climbed, and it’s not an easy wall to climb.”
Said Kalle Sauerland, Chief Boxing Officer of the WBSS: “Two weeks ago we witnessed what was potentially the Fight of the Year (WBSS 140-pound final – Josh Taylor MD 12 Regis Prograis) at The O2 in London, and this Thursday we have another fascinating final. Donaire, the old lion protecting his lair vs Inoue, the pound-for-pound king at the moment.”
Inoue vs. Donaire will be broadcast live on DAZN in the U.S.
The road to Saitama and the concluding bout in the bantamweight edition of Season II of the World Boxing Super Series:
Tournament No. 2 seed Inoue knocked out Juan Carlos Payano 70 seconds into their quarter-final and then stopped Emmanuel Rodriguez in round two of the semi as he blasted his way to the final contest for the coveted Ali Trophy.
Unseeded Donaire defeated No. 1 seed, Ryan Burnett, as he suffered a lower back injury and had to withdraw from their quarter-final, and then knocked out replacement Stephon Young in round five after Zolani Tete was ruled out of their semi due to a shoulder injury.