Four big names in the world of boxing will all vie to book their place in the finals for the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy in the semi-finals of the WBSS tournament on May 18th.
Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue faces Emmanuel Rodriguez in an IBF title bout of the 118Ib division in Glasgow, Scotland. Monster’ Inoue (17-0, 15Kos) advanced to the semi-final following his first round destruction of former champ, Juan Carlos Payano on October 10 in Yokohama, Japan.
Rodriguez (19-0, 12Kos) retained his IBF strap with a split decision over previously undefeated Jason Moloney of Australia. He won on two scores of 115-113 for himself with one identical score for Moloney in their back-and-forth battle.
Many experts have picked Inoue to raise the Ali Trophy but he will have to get past the tough 26-year-old unbeaten Rodriquez, who goes by the name ‘El Sensacional.’ In fact, Inoue was at ringside in Orlando to watch his future opponent overcome Moloney to advance.
There is little doubt that Inoue will try to make Rodriguez another knockout victim, especially considering his well-earned reputation and the fact that the puncher’s last two opponents had never been stopped before.
“My aim is a KO in any fight,” said Inoue. “In my last two fights last year, that moment just happened to come in the 1st round. My goal is not to finish the fight in the 1st round, but will go for the KO when I see the chance.”
The legend and myth of Inoue has continued to grow since his move up to bantamweight nearly a year ago; blasting out Jamie McDonnell to win the WBA title. Payano’s fall has merely added to his growing popularity.
Inoue has proven to be an excellent fighter and has fought some good, not great opposition thus far in Yoan Boyeaux, David Carmona, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Antonio Nieves and Karoon Jarupianlerd. Carmona is perhaps his best opponent to date having forced the phenome to go all 12-rounds back in 2016 only to lose by unanimous decision.
However, it must be noted that Inoue was coming off of a lengthy layoff at the time and re-injured his right hand in that fight, which required surgery. It was just the second points victory in his young career with the lone other occasion occurring in his fourth pro outing – a 10-rounder against Ryoichi Taguchi.
Inoue does not appear to be taking his next assignment lightly. He has reportedly been in an intense training camp in preparation for the young Puerto Rican boxer since January 8.
Rodriguez is a very good technical fighter with excellent counterpunching ability so Inoue will need to bid his time and exercise intelligent aggression in this potential chess match. The two are similar in terms of age, height and reach so I do not see an advantage for either fighter there.
The difference maker will be Inoue’s superior power as Rodriquez is not a known power puncher. However, the proud Mexican can take a punch and is disciplined enough to avoid being flattened if he fights from a defensive posture.
Naoyue is just in a different league with the kind of fistic fury to end matters suddenly and violently. I like Rodriguez to become only the third man to see the final bell, but he’s never faced anyone as remotely talented as “The Monster” and that harrowing fact will play out as the fight wears on.
Inoue should remain undefeated and will likely claim his 8th consecutive knockout victim.
Taking place on the same night will be Scotland’s Josh Taylor against Belarus’ IBF World champion Ivan Baranchyk in their semi-final dual. Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs) and Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs) both impressed in their last outings to reach the semi-finals.
Taylor completely outworked and outclassed USA’s Ryan Martin, stopping him in the 7th round on November 3. Baranchyk used his devastating power to force the ring doctor to call a halt to his last bout against Sweden’s Anthony Yigit in the 7th round on October.
The fighters appear equally confident of their chances of advancing to the finals.
“I am delighted to be fighting for the world title,” said Taylor. “It is a childhood dream to become a world champion. I am very confident I will win and do it in fashion.”
“My nature, effort and my love of boxing will help me get the Ali Trophy,” said Baranchyk.
Taylor, who turned pro at age 25, captured the British Empire Super Lightweight title in just his seventh fight. His biggest test to date came against former world champion Victor Postol in 2018. The fight was very close and competitive throughout with Postol stunning Taylor in the early going. However, Taylor stormed back later in the 10th round to floor the Ukrainian.
Judges clearly favoured the busier Taylor scoring the bout 118-110, 117-110 and 119-108 in his favor.
Ivan Baranchyk is a tough mostly self-taught Russian-born fighter who holds Belarus citizenship. He fights with a near perfect mix of speed and power relying mostly on instincts instead of skills to overcome opponents.
As an amateur, Baranchyk compiled an impressive, but not particularly glittering 120-30 record. He’s been carefully moved through the pro ranks and it’s notable that his KO percentage has dropped steadily as the quality of opposition has increased.
Baranchyk prefers to fight close where he can unleash hooks to the body. The problem is that this strategy also leaves him open to be countered. The Belorussian’s ‘money punch’ is the right hand but it is thrown at an awkward angle yet has proven highly effective.
Taylor is reportedly a 5-1 favorite and for good reason having the better resume and overall ring experience. Baranchyk is there to be hit and has a tendency to become stationary which can backfire against a taller and rangier opponent like Taylor. I can’t see Josh losing at home and I don’t see Baranchyk doing well enough to convince judges otherwise
Taylor’s size and activity should be enough to give him a close but well-earned unanimous decision in this fight.