Naoya Inoue rounds off his 2022 this Tuesday at the Ariake Arena in Japan, as he looks to become undisputed world bantamweight champion by adding Paul Butler’s WBO belt to his WBC, WBA ‘super’ and IBF titles.
Inoue vs Butler will be streamed on ESPN+ in the USA, although no UK broadcaster has been announced as of yet.
Japanese sensation Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs) has passed every test he has faced so far with flying colours, and has reigned as world champion in three weight classes.
After spells as light flyweight and super flyweight world champion, ’The Monster’ moved up in weight in 2018, taking the WBA bantamweight title with a first round win against Jamie McDonnell, and then entered the World Boxing Super Series, winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy with a thrilling points win over Nonito Donaire.
The 29-year-old pound-for-pound star came out with the WBA ‘super’ and IBF titles in the process. Three straight knockout wins followed, and his last fight saw him add the WBC crown with a crushing second round rematch win against Donaire.
Butler (34-2, 15 KOs) became IBF bantamweight champion way back in 2014 with a split decision win over Stuart Hall after moving up in weight.
After vacating his belt to return to the super flyweight division, the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ was knocked out by Zolani Tete in eight in 2015 in a challenge for the IBF belt.
Nine wins followed before a points defeat to Emmanuel Rodriguez in an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim his former belt, and seven more wins on the spin put the him back into world title contention.
The Ellesmere Port native was due to challenge John Riel Casimero for the WBO bantamweight strap in December last year, but the Filipino pulled out after being hospitalised due to gastritis, and when he violated weight-making rules, he was out once again in April, and stripped of his title.
The 34-year-old outscored Jonas Sultan for the interim belt, and was elevated to full champion as a result.
A win for Butler here would rank as high as any British away victory in what is a monumental task.
Prediction: I can’t see anything other than Inoue being crowned undisputed champion here, and I feel he can get the job done well inside the halfway mark.
McGrail meets Miyake
2020 Olympian, Peter McGrail (5-0, 4 KOs) gets a run out, and the super lightweight can come through after eight rounds against Hironori Miyake (9-12-2, 1 KOs).
Inoue’s brother battles Bornea
Takuma Inoue (16-1, 3 KOs), younger brother of Naoya, is on the cusp of a second world title shot, and he can bank a points win over Jake Bornea (14-3-1, 7 KOs) in a ten rounder at featherweight.
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Yoshiki Takei (5-0, 5 KOs) can defend his Oriental & Pacific super bantamweight title with a stoppage win over Bruno Tarimo (26-3-2, 5 KOs), who lost to Zelfa Barrett in a world title eliminator last time out, and Andy Hiraoka (21-0, 16 KOs) can retain his WBO Asia Pacific super lightweight title on the cards against Min Ho Jung (13-3-2, 3 KOs).
Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9 KOs) can score an early win in his eight rounder at featherweight against Landy Cris Leon (14-22-5, 6 KOs).