After some trepidation, it appears that the bantamweight unification showdown between WBA (super) champion Nonito Donaire Jr. and WBA (regular) and IBF titlist Naoya Inoue will finally come into fruition.
The 12-round fight, the finals of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament, will be held on November 7 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The ultimate winner will be awarded the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the corresponding prize money.
The official announcement of the fight, however, came on the heels of reports that the WBSS was going through rough waters. In fact, a few weeks before the WBSS announced the Donaire-Inoue fight, Donaire seemed ready to pull out from the tournament.
“A fight against Inoue is a fight that needs to be done to determine the best in the division. Unfortunately, the urgency to make this fight happen is not materializing considering all participants expected the entire tournament to end by no later than July,” posted Donaire in his Twitter account.
Donaire’s concerns were anchored on solid grounds. Last December, reports cropped up that Comosa AG, the Sweden-based group banking the ambitious boxing tournament, was mired in some financial turmoil. Some of the boxers who advanced to the next round of the WBSS tournaments have reportedly been complaining at the failure of the organizers to pay them the cash bonuses stipulated in their contracts.
In a bid to resuscitate his career, Donaire returned to the bantamweight division and signed up for the WBSS bantamweight tournament. The WBSS was on its second season and the tournament covered the cruiserweights (200 lbs.), bantamweights (118 lbs.) and junior welterweights (140 lbs.)
Donaire (40-5, 26 knockouts) advanced to the finals of the bantamweight tournament by stopping Ryan Burnett in November and Stephon Young last April. For his part, Japanese puncher Inoue (18-0, 16 knockouts) earned a ticket to the finals by bamboozling Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez.
As correctly pointed out by Donaire, the finals matchup with Inoue should have happened in July. Instead, the final bout will happen in November. Interestingly enough, more than a month after Donaire and Inoue advanced to the finals, nothing was heard from the organizers of the WBSS. It was not until Donaire threatened to pull out that the WBSS got its act together and announced a November 7 fight date and venue.
As it turned out, WBSS organizers were also dealing with some problems with the participants in its junior welterweight tournament. On August 9, American Regis Prograis, the WBA (super) junior welterweight champ, withdrew from the tournament and sued officials of Comosa AG for allegedly failing to meet their contractual obligations.
Prograis (24-0, 20 knockouts) was due to fight IBF champion Josh Taylor (15-0, 12 knockouts) in the finals of the junior welterweight tournament on October 5. Prograis claimed the decision to withdraw was due to “a long and repeated pattern of behavior by Comosa that includes late payments, scheduling delays, bad faith representations, missed deadlines and broken promises.”
As of press time, Prograis’ representatives and the WBSS are working on resolving the lawsuit and resuming the tournament.
As can be deduced, Season 2 of the WBSS has been beset with financial and scheduling issues. With Prograis’ lawsuit, the problems of the WBSS came out in the open. Donaire had every reason to be alarmed.
The organizers of the WBSS are working overtime to iron things out. The Donaire-Inoue fight has already been made official. If the WBSS resolves the issues with Prograis, the latter’s fight with Taylor will be rescheduled for October 26. The cruiserweight final, a title unification showdown between WBO champ Mairis Briedis and IBF king Yunier Dorticos, has not been officially announced but is expected to take place on December 14.