World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Season 2 Preview

  • The World Boxing Super Series has announced Season 2
  • The Bantamweight division is the one to watch, with four of the top five 118-pounders taking part
  • Naoya Inoue opens as the heavy favorite

After the rousing success that was the World Boxing Super Series — Cruiserweight division, the WBSS returns for Season 2 in 2018-19. This time it’s the bantamweight and Super lightweight divisions on display.

The bantamweight tournament features four World Champions and five undefeated fighters. It’s the perfect division for the WBSS. There are so many amazing 118-pounders who haven’t received the exposure they deserve. We saw from HBO’s two Superfly events that the lighter divisions can put on a hell of a show, so it only makes sense to shine a light on the rest of the little guys.

Naoya Inoue: -164

  • 16-0-0, 14 KOs
  • WBA (Regular) World Champion
  • 5’5″, 25 years

He’s the biggest name in the lower divisions. Naoya Inoue has rampaged his way from light-flyweight to bantamweight, dropping everyone in his path and catching the eye of fight fans around the world. He packs enormous power for someone who stands at just 5’5″, and he fires shots with blistering speed.

After wreaking havoc in Japan, HBO finally brought “The Monster” to the US where he fought on the famed Superfly card. He made easy work of his opponent, Antonio Nieves, and forced him to quit after six rounds.

He’s only had one fight at bantamweight, which lasted just under two minutes, but there’s absolutely no doubt that he has the size and power to handle the competition at 118 lbs.

Ryan Burnett: +550

  • 19-0, 9 KOs
  • WBA (Super) World Champion
  • 5’4″, 26 years

Lightning fast hands, matrix-style head movement, and a decorated amateur background. Ryan Burnett has what it takes to be the next big thing out of Belfast. He exploded onto the scene last year when he defeated Lee Haskins, twice knocking down the then-IBF champ. He then went on the snatch the WBA strap from Zhanat Zhakiyanov.

However, there is one thing Burnett lacks: power. He can out-work and out-box his opponents, but he rarely finishes them. If he ever comes face to face with Inoue, it’s likely he’ll have to survive 12 rounds of punishment in order to win. That’s a tough ask for any fighter.

He chose to take on Nonito Donaire in the WBSS quarterfinal, which should be a thrilling fight. The “Filipino Flash” is a pretty heavy hitter himself, so we’ll soon find out how he handles being out-gunned.

Emmanuel Rodriguez: +550

  • 18-0-0, 12 KOs
  • IBF World Champion
  • 5’6″, 25 years

Emmanuel Rodriguez boasts an impressive unbeaten record, with 18 wins and 12 knockouts. But there’s only one notable name on his resume: Paul Butler. Rodriguez defeated the former IBF Bantamweight champ in May, dropping him twice to win by a wide margin (118-108, 120-106, 120-106).

Unless you’re a huge fan of Puerto Rican boxing, that’s about all you know about Rodriguez. He came out of nowhere, annihilated the IBF champ, and then signed up for the WBSS. But the way he completely dismantled Butler is enough to make him one of the favorites to win the tournament.

The newly-crowned champ sill has a lot to prove but he’s already demonstrated a ton of promise. The WBSS is his chance to showcase his talents against the best of the division.

Zolani Tete: +600

  • 27-3-0, 21 KOs
  • WBO World Champion
  • 5’9″, 30 years

Zolani Tete has always struggled to land fights against noteworthy opponents. Even as WBO champ, it’s been hard for him to convince other high-level bantamweights to step into the ring with him. All that will change now that he’s part of the WBSS.

He’s hardly the most entertaining fighter you’ll ever see. He’s a patient counter-puncher who uses his long jabs to keep his opponents at bay. At 5’9″, he towers over his bantamweight counterparts. His ridiculous 72″ reach will be a tough puzzle to crack for any opponent.

Mikhail Aloyan: +2800

  • 4-0-0, 0 KOs
  • Two-time Olympic Medalist
  • 5’4″, 29 years

There’s no doubt that Mikhail Aloyan is an excellent boxer. He’s won two World Championships, took home bronze at the London Olympics, and then won silver in Rio de Janeiro (but was later stripped after a failed drug test).

However, his professional boxing career has been far less impressive. The Russian bantamweight has only had four pro fights (strangely, all against Nicaraguans) and scraped by with two split decision wins against nobodies. At this early stage of his career, promising fighters are usually fed cans to pad their resume. Aloyan can’t even be relied on to eat what he’s fed.

He’s another example of a talented amateur boxer who doesn’t have the punching power to make it in the pros.

Nonito Donaire: +3300

  • 38-5, 24 KOs
  • Four-division World Champion
  • 5’6″, 35 years

This is a strange one. It’s been seven years since Nonito Donaire has fought at 118 lbs. Why is the 35-year-old opting to move back down?

It’s been a rough few years for the “Filipino Flash”. First a loss to Jessie Magdaleno in 2016, and now defeat at the hands of Carl Frampton. In fact, things just haven’t been the same for Donaire since his devastating loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux back in 2013. Perhaps the four-division champ believes the WBSS is his last shot at redemption.

It’s clear that Donaire’s best days are behind him. If he were five years younger, he’d be a favorite for this tournament. At 35, not so much.

Juan Carlos Payano: +5000

  • 20-1-0, 9 KOs
  • Former WBA Bantamweight Champion
  • 5’5″, 34 years

The two-division champ has his work cut out for him. He faces Naoya Inoue first and will enter the ring as the heavy underdog. With just nine knockouts from 20 wins, he’s not exactly a power puncher. He’ll be matching pitter-patter shots against slugs from “The Monster”.

If he manages to win, then he’ll be considered one of the favorites to win the tournament. But that seems incredibly unlikely.

Jason Moloney: +8000

  • 17-0, 14 KOs
  • WBA Oceania Bantamweight Champion
  • 5’6″, 27 years

The Aussie bantamweight is really only here to make up numbers. While the other contestants are either World Champs or former World Champs, Jason Moloney chases Oceania titles and has never fought outside of Australia.