Nonito Donaire proved once again what an unbelievable servant to the sport he has been with a brilliant performance in defeat to Naoya Inoue.
During the whole World Boxing Super Series process, and throughout his career, Donaire has been a class act in and outside of the ring.
In the bantamweight final, Donaire proved a tough nut for Inoue to crack. This was despite ludicrous pre-fight predictions of an early blowout.
From the off, Donaire was hell-bent on disrupting the rhythm of Inoue. It was clear ‘The Filipino Flash’ wanted a war throughout.
The first four rounds were close before Inoue took control in the mid-rounds after making Donaire feel his power in the fifth.
But just as it seemed Inoue would coast to victory, Donaire came back. The 36 year-old rocked Inoue in the ninth round.
For the first time, Inoue showed vulnerability. He boasted a horrible gash on his eyelid and a busted nose into the bargain.
The younger man proved too strong down the stretch. Stunning Donaire in the tenth, Inoue turned the contest completely in his favor.
In the eleventh, a crunching body shot almost ended it as Donaire was forced to run a half-circle around the ring before taking a knee.
Getting up on the count of nine and three quarters, Donaire eeked out a decision in survival mode as true champions do.
On many occasions, Donaire proved Inoue can be hurt. The veteran erased the cloak of invincibility which the Japanese fighter, nicknamed ‘Monster’, took into the finale.
The encounter ended on the scorecards. And it was Inoue who claimed the coveted Ali Trophy 117-109, 116-111 and 114-113 with the judges.
Inoue can now expect to land in third place on the WBN Pound for Pound Top 50.
Earlier, Naoya had to watch from his dressing room as undefeated younger sibling Takuma lost on points in his first world title challenge.
Inoue faced the WBC bantamweight champion, Nordine Oubaali and went down to a unanimous verdict.
Oubaali stays perfect on 17-0 after he completed a tremendous preparation in Kazakhstan and a solid win on the night.
Furthermore, judges carded for the green and gold belt holder 120-107, 117-110 and 115-112 after the final bell.