The expected and previously-reported undisputed bantamweight championship fight between Naoya Inoue and Paul Butler is now official, set to take place on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from Tokyo’s Ariake Arena.
Inoue (23-0, 20 KO) has bulldozed his way to world titles at 108, 115, and 118, but has never gone undisputed in a division. He has the WBC, WBA, and IBF belts, and has been as dominant as ever as a bantamweight.
The 29-year-old “Monster” won the IBF title from Emmanuel Rodriguez via second round knockout in 2019, added the WBA title that same year by beating Nonito Donaire in an instant classic Fight of the Year, and picked up the WBC just this past June, demolishing Donaire inside of two rounds in their rematch.
Butler (34-2, 15 KO) hasn’t had quite the story for the WBO belt he currently holds, as he was elevated from interim to world status following his last fight, an April win over Jonas Sultan in Liverpool, following the sanctioning body’s decision to strip John Riel Casimero.
The 33-year-old “Baby-Faced Assassin” is actually a two-time bantamweight titlist, as he beat Stuart Hall for the IBF title back in 2014, then vacated to move down to 115 lbs for an IBF title shot there, which he lost to Zolani Tete in 2015.
Inoue will unquestionably and understandably be a massive favorite to win this fight and go undisputed, but Butler has been eager to take this fight ever since Inoue beat Donaire, and willing to go on the road for it. And while it being the biggest fight there is at 118 lbs makes it seem like a no-brainer to take by normal brain standards, by the average boxing brain paths, more often than not you’d see a fighter in Butler’s position steered to keep fighting at home against soft-but-ranked opposition.
Inoue vs Butler will most likely air live on ESPN+ in the United States, with Inoue still signed to Top Rank here.
- Naoya’s younger brother Takuma (16-1, 3 KO), a former bantamweight title challenger and currently contending at 122 lbs, will take on unbeaten Filipino Jade Bornea (18-0, 12 KO).
- Featherweight Satoshi Shimizu (10-1, 9 KO) will fight for the first time since May 2021, facing an opponent to be named for his OPBF featherweight title.
- OPBF junior featherweight titleholder Yoshiki Takei (5-0, 5 KO) will face Bruno Tarimo (26-3-2, 5 KO), a Tanzanian-born Australian coming off of a loss in Manchester last December to Zelfa Barrett.
- Junior welterweight Andy Hiraoka (21-0, 16 KO) will continue, at age 26, fighting opponents who don’t crack the BoxRec top 200 as he faces South Korea’s Min Ho Jung (13-3-2, 3 KO).
- British prospect Peter McGrail (4-0, 3 KO) will get a spot on a big international card as he faces Hironori Miyake (9-12-2, 1 KO) in an eight-round junior featherweight bout. McGrail is also in action this coming Saturday in Liverpool, where he faces veteran Alexander Espinoza on a Probellum card, and any sort of setback there — including a bad cut or the like — could change his Tokyo plans, but for now he’s on the card.