Scotland’s Josh Taylor and Japan’s Naoya Inoue are big favorites to win their semi-final bouts this weekend during the second round of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Season Two of the WBSS continues Saturday, May 18 at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland with two world championship semi-final matchups in the junior welterweight and bantamweight divisions.
The WBSS is a global boxing tournament featuring eight boxers in each selected weight class battling it out in a bracket-style elimination tournament, with four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and one final.
Taylor, 28, is a strong favorite at -400 to defeat Ivan Baranchyk, +435, for Baranchyk’s IBF junior welterweight title. Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs) is considered one of the best prospects in the sport. He was an elite amateur in Scotland before turning professional in 2015 under the promotional banner of Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions.
Because of his talent, Taylor was fast-tracked to the Commonwealth junior welterweight title in just his seventh professional fight and, perhaps even more impressively, has already defeated former titleholders Miguel Vazquez and Viktor Postol to solidify his standing among the very best 140-pound fighters in boxing.
One of the favorites when the tournament began last year, the general consensus was that the two best fighters in the tournament were Taylor and Regis Prograis. The expectation among most was that both fighters would win their sides of the 140-pound bracket before meeting in the final to determine who deserved the status of being the best junior welterweight.
Prograis stopped Kiryl Relikh in the sixth round last month in New Orleans to do his part. Now Taylor sets out to accomplish the same as the winner of Taylor-Baranchyk will meet Prograis in the final later this year.
Baranchyk, 26, is a Belarusian boxer who lives and trains in Oklahoma. Baranchyk’s team almost pulled him out of the WBSS because they became frustrated by the apparent financial issues the organizers faced as well an overall lack of communication over when and where the next round of the tournament would occur.
But once organizers settled their internal issues, Baranchyk recommitted to facing Taylor in the semi-final. While Barancyk (19-0, 12 KOs) is the underdog fighting on the road in front of what is sure to be a raucous, pro-Taylor crowd, the 26-year-old is a skilled boxer capable of pulling the upset.
The card also features Japanese sensation Inoue against IBF bantamweight titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez. Inoue, 26, from Japan, is fast-becoming a global boxing icon. He’s ranked among the top ten fighters in the sport on most pound-for-pound lists and is considered one of the most skilled punchers on the planet.
Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) currently holds a secondary world title at bantamweight. He’s already beaten a slew of relevant fighters and has won legitimate world titles in two different weight classes. Now oddsmakers like him to do it in a third.
Inoue is a -650 favorite to defeat Rodriguez, +600. While Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) is an accomplished bantamweight with legitimate skills and world-class credentials, Inoue is one of the hardest, most precise punchers in the sport and, scarily enough, seems to just get better and better each outing.
Rodriguez, 26, from Puerto Rico, won the vacant IBF title by defeating Paul Butler in 2016. He defended it against Jason Moloney via split decision in October 2018 during the first round of the WBSS tournament. But Rodriguez will be in a tough spot against Inoue, a monstrous pouncher who has knocked out seven straight opponents.
The winner of Inoue-Rodriguez is set to face Nonito Donaire in the bantamweight tournament final later this year.