Not since Godzilla stalked the city skylines has a Japanese creation struck fear into the hearts of so many. Naoya “Monster” Inoue devoured another victim on Saturday night as IBF bantamweight ruler Emmanuel Rodriguez succumbed in round two.
Hordes of fight aficionados descended on Glasgow’s SSE Hydro to not only witness local hero Josh Taylor (more on him later) go to war in the toughest test of his career to date, but also to witness Inoue in the flesh.
Inoue’s opponent on the night was the IBF World Bantamweight Champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez, is by no means a lousy fighter. The Puerto Rican entered the ring undefeated, having previously displayed that he can box and brawl in equal measure. When he boxed against Inoue, he did OK. When he gathered confidence and tried to brawl, he came unstuck. His Japanese challenger was, however, no ordinary specimen. Uncorking a cracking left hook amid a firefight, Inoue suddenly rewired brave Rodriguez mid-round.
Nonito Donaire sits waiting for Inoue in the WBSS bantamweight final. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to end well for the likeable veteran.
Josh Taylor, meanwhile, became IBF super-lightweight world champion, and set up a WBSS final against Regis Prograis, after a hard-fought 12-round points win over Ivan Baranchyk.
Classy Taylor shows everything you want to see from a fighter; mixing grit, skill, ring savvy and a touch of devilment. Anyone expecting Prograis to dominate their showdown is sorely mistaken.
Baranchyk arrived as the IBF Super-Lightweight Champion, in a confident mood and terrific physical condition — something he needed to survive the sixth round (where he suffered two knockdowns and was seconds away from being stopped).
Taylor it seems is already building himself into a Scottish legend, and his fights are fast becoming must-see TV.
While Taylor and Inoue were strutting their stuff, Billy Joe Saunders became a two-weight world champion in the most underwhelming possible fashion. His opponent, Shefat Isufi, is not a world level operator. That said, he came to Stevenage ready to throw punches, only to have his ears boxed off for the majority of the contest. There was a brief flashpoint in the sixth when Isufi got brave and appeared to stun Saunders with a looping right hand. Billy Joe hung on, cleared his senses and swiftly resumed regular service.
Saunders desperately needs a fight with one of the big guys down at middleweight if he is to rediscover his relevance. Super-middleweight does not seem like it is the right weight class for him.
While Isufi’s right hand might not have the pop to end fights, Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight honey punch certainly does. Hapless contender Dominic Breazeale is a notoriously slow starter. Add that to the fact that Wilder often races out of the blocks to end matters early, and you had a recipe for disaster as far as the WBC title challenger was concerned.
Wilder uncorked a blinding right just as Breazeale (who had landed a decent right hand of his own just seconds earlier) set himself up to go to war after a clinch.
This was the first of three underwhelming contests involving the heavyweight division’s trinity of top attractions. Anthony Joshua fights Andy Ruiz next on June 1, before Tyson Fury entertains Tom Schwarz on June 15.
The cry of boxing fans across the globe is undoubtedly, “enough of these matchups; we want to see the best fight the best”.