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Looking Ahead to Inoue-Donaire and Looking Back at Haney-Kambosos

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  • Looking Ahead to Inoue-Donaire and Looking Back at Haney-Kambosos

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    By Arne K. Lang

    The rematch between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire will be “a monumental moment for boxing,” says the Probellum press release. That’s a bit over the top, but if Inoue-Donaire II is a facsimile of the first meeting, it will be something special.

    Inoue-Donaire II will be contested on Tuesday at Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, which is part of metropolitan Tokyo. The first encounter, on Nov. 7, 2019, was also staged here.

    A lot of water has gone under the bridge since that spectacular donnybrook which was the capstone of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament.

    Inoue, who is 29 and looks younger, added three more wins to his ledger, winning all three inside the distance, extending his record to 22-0 (19 KOs). A vicious body-puncher, the baby-faced assassin (the label still fits) is on everyone’s pound-for-pound list and is seemingly on pace to be heralded as Japan’s best boxer ever, leapfrogging the brilliant Masahiko “Fighting” Harada who was also a bantamweight.

    Nonito Donaire (42-6, 28 KOs) has fought twice in the interim, winning both, the first of which, a brutal fourth-round KO of previously undefeated Nordine Oubaali, made him a five-time title-holder and two-time world bantamweight champion. Oubaali, a two-time Olympian, entered that contest an 11/5 favorite.

    There’s a 10-year gap in age between Inoue and Donaire who is in his twenty-second year as a pro. It goes without saying that the gap hasn’t changed but, in a sense, it actually has, widening as the Las Vegas-based Filipino is now 39 years old, a historically perilous age for a fighter in one of the lower weight classes.

    Inoue, who was taken to the brink by Donaire while winning a unanimous decision, is a consensus 6/1 favorite. A win would leave him one belt short of acquiring all the hardware. The WBO diadem is held by England’s Paul Butler against whom the Japanese “monster” would be a massive favorite. Or, Inoue may go up to 122 where the belt-holders are Stephen Fulton (WBC, WBO) and Murodjon Akhmadaliev (WBA, IBF).

    Inoue-Donaire will air on ESPN+. Owing to the time difference, seeing the Tuesday fight live will require getting out of bed at a very early hour. For viewers on the West Coast, that means 3:00 am in the morning.

    Haney-Kambosos Rewind

    If boxing is the art of hitting without getting hit, then Devin Haney turned in a masterclass in Melbourne, Australia. But unless one is purist, a masterclass is a bore because each round is largely a repetition of the round before it. Haney vs. Kambosos did nothing to win new converts to the sport.

    The tedium would have been more tolerable if the ESPN commentators hadn’t been so hyperbolically long-winded. Those that don’t subscribe to ESPN+ were reduced to capturing all the action on the main ESPN platform. A pox on ESPN for giving viewers only two fights inside a broadcast that lasted more than three hours. True, things were jumbled when the women’s softball game ran late, but there was plenty of room to duck in a third fight even if the bantamweight co-feature had gone the full distance.

    Jason Moloney looked super-sharp in the co-feature, TKOing Aston Palicte in the third round. His twin brother Andrew Moloney, a super flyweight, was no less impressive, or so we have read. We didn’t see his bout with Nicaragua’s Alexander Espinoza who retired on his stool after two one-sided rounds. Andrew Moloney vs. Espinoza played out after the bungled ESPN telecast signed off the air.

    The personable Moloney twins are very easy to like and both are seemingly still improving at age thirty-one. In common with the Charlo twins, their records are almost interchangeable. Jason Moloney pushed his record to 24-2 (19 KOs) with his stoppage of Palicte. Andrew’s ledger currently stands at 24-2 (15) with one controversial no-decision, that coming in his middle fight with nemesis Joshua Franco.

    It was suggested that Kambosos vs. Haney was the most-anticipated prizefight ever on Australian soil. Although there’s room for argument, we would reserve that distinction for the second meeting between future Hall of Famers Jeff Fenech and Azumah Nelson, a super featherweight affair.

    They met on March 1, 1992 on an Australian Rules Football pitch in Melbourne’s Princess Park, an enclosure with a capacity of 41,000. The promotion was reportedly an advance sellout, but it was a rainy day and somewhat less than 40,000 were in attendance.

    They had met in June of the previous year at the Mirage in Las Vegas and Fenech, bidding to win a title in a fourth weight class, was flat-out robbed. The official verdict was a draw, a decision that unleashed a loud chorus of boos and epithets. (Yours truly couldn’t contain himself; I too was in that chorus.)

    When they locked horns again in Melbourne, Fenech was a big favorite. But as was true again this weekend in Melbourne, the brown-skinned invader spoiled the party. Azumah Nelson stopped Fenech in the eighth round.

    Fenech was one of the commentators on the Australian TV feed. Rather than applaud Haney for his masterclass, Fenech faulted his countryman Kambosos for not having a
    “Plan B” and his corner for not instilling within him a sense of urgency in the homestretch.

    There was a rematch clause that Kambosos has indicated he will activate. They won’t need a big stadium to hold it. The general feeling post-fight is that there’s a big class difference between Haney and Kambosos and there is nothing the Aussie can do to reverse the outcome.

    Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher ( or via Amazon.

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