Regis Prograis and Nonito Donaire advanced to their tournament finals last night on DAZN.
When the latest big fights are done, a lot of boxing fans wonder what’s next for the winners. Usually we have to lay out a whole bunch of options, explain why certain things you might REALLY want almost surely are not going to happen, and it’s a big guessing game.
But not for Regis Prograis and Nonito Donaire. They know what’s next: the finals of their World Boxing Super Series tournaments, and even the question of who’s next is down to two options.
The 30-year-old Prograis (24-0, 20 KO) stopped Kiryl Relikh in the sixth round of their 140-pound semifinal fight last night in Louisiana, claiming Relikh’s WBA belt in the process. Prograis is openly wondering if he’s on the P4P list yet, but for most, perhaps not. That could come later this year, though. (He did, however, leap past Josh Taylor into the No. 1 spot at 140 on BoxRec, and is No. 24 there P4P, if you’re wondering>)
Prograis will face the winner of the May 18 fight in Glasgow, Scotland, between unbeaten Taylor (14-0, 12 KO) and IBF titleholder Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KO), a fight that took a lot of maneuvering to save after Baranchyk dropped out of the tournament due to delays and questions about money.
The 28-year-old Taylor has home field advantage and is the favorite in that fight, but not overwhelmingly. Baranchyk, 26, is a legit fighter himself, every bit as undefeated as Taylor, and certainly a live dog. That’s one to circle on your calendars. It will air on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and stream on DAZN in the United States.
Either way it goes, Prograis-Taylor or Prograis-Baranchyk, we’re looking at a terrific fight for two titles and the Muhammad Ali trophy by the end of 2019.
Veteran Donaire, now 36 years of age, has been the season two “Cinderella story” of the World Boxing Super Series, but in truly bizarre fashion.
Back in November, he went to Glasgow to face Ryan Burnett in their first round matchup. Donaire was moving down two weight classes and hadn’t fought at bantamweight since 2011. A former titleholder at 112, 118, 122, and 126, Donaire was still competitive but had lost fights to Jessie Magdaleno in 2016 and Carl Frampton in 2018.
When he entered the WBSS as a bantamweight, it basically seemed like a last shot at glory. He was taking a risk moving back down, and honestly most expected him to lose in the first round to Burnett.
But Burnett injured his back and had to retire from the fight after the fourth round, giving Donaire a spot in the semifinals as well as Burnett’s WBA title. That meant a matchup with WBO titleholder Zolani Tete. Then Tete got hurt the week of the fight and had to pull out.
Donaire instead fought late substitute Stephon Young on Saturday, and absolutely drilled him in the sixth round with a left hook, which has always been Donaire’s best punch, sometimes something he’s focused on to his detriment in fights.
So here we are with Donaire (40-5, 26 KO) headed to the tournament finals later this year. That’s the good news for Nonito.
The bad news is, it’s expected that the “Monster” awaits.
Now I want to say two things:
- I’m not ignoring Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KO), who holds the IBF bantamweight title and is a good fighter.
- I’m not saying Donaire would be scared to fight anybody, because I don’t think he is or ever has been.
Donaire made his name facing Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 on Showtime. Donaire was an unknown at the time, 17-1 record, really nothing much on it. Darchinyan had been dominating opponents at flyweight and was being pushed as a destroyer. Donaire kicked his ass and stopped him in the fifth round, and over the years he’s taken on plenty of top names and contenders and titleholders.
But Naoya Inoue. That’s the guy Rodriguez faces on May 18 in Glasgow in the other bantamweight semifinal. He’s the favorite. He’s earned the nickname “Monster.”
Inoue has won titles at 108, 115, and 118 already. He’s 17-0 (15 KO) and hasn’t even been touched since moving up to bantamweight last year. He demolished Jamie McDonnell in 1:52 to win the WBA “world” title in May 2018, and then knocked out Juan Carlos Payano in 70 seconds in October.
Inoue is 26 years old, a brutal puncher, and even has his supporters in the P4P discussion.
If Inoue beats Rodriguez as expected, Inoue-Donaire becomes reality. That’s a big task for an aging Donaire. Injuries to others have gotten him into the final as much as anything. But I’ll say it now: Nonito can still box, still has his power at bantamweight, and no, I absolutely would not completely count him out. Donaire’s left hook is a true eraser at this weight and he’s got a huge amount of experience. He’s never been stopped below featherweight.
If it’s Rodriguez, then I think Donaire just has a legitimately solid chance to win the tournament. If it’s Inoue, it would be a true upset. But one of them is next, we know that much.