Naoya Inoue is now the undisputed bantamweight champion of the world, which probably won’t last very long, after knocking out Paul Butler on body shots in the 11th round.
Butler, who came in defending the WBO title against Inoue’s WBC, WBA, and IBF belts, mostly was in survival/defensive mode throughout the bout. He looked very game early, but once Inoue (24-0, 21 KO) flashed his speed and power, Butler (34-3, 15 KO) became very tentative, and to be fair to him, also came in with the clear game plan to not get run over early, staying defensively responsible.
Butler also ate a lot of body shots along the way that probably could have stopped other opponents, and have in the past. As the rounds wore on, past the fifth or so, Inoue became arrogant, daring Butler to actually throw back and give him some openings. At one point, he did the old Roy Jones Jr, putting his hands behind his back and sticking his chin out. Butler did nothing about it.
In the 11th, Inoue finally just decided to pour on the serious pressure again, and body shots felled the Brit. Butler tried to get up, but there was just no getting up. The fight was stopped at 1:09 of round 11, technically a TKO because the referee didn’t complete the 10-count, but it was a proper knockout.
“I finally became the undisputed bantamweight world champion,” Inoue said via interpreter. “It’s been a long journey for me. I was able to make this goal of becoming undisputed world champion. Now, I’m considering going up to super bantamweight.”
Inoue also expressed appreciation to Butler for coming to Japan and giving him the chance for an undisputed title fight, something he’d wanted in previous weight classes but never got. Inoue also said he was happy to fight longer than normal, though it did not seem that way during the fight.
It was expected that Inoue would go up to 122 lbs after this, which means he will vacate all four belts and leave them scattered to the sanctioning bodies to appoint vacant title fights, with every chance Butler will get to fight someone else for the vacant WBO belt at 118.
Inoue vs Butler highlights
Undercard highlights and results
- Andy Hiraoka TKO-8 Min Ho Jung: Hiraoka is 26 years old and now 22-0 (17 KO). It’s time for him to start fighting better opponents. It’s been time. If there’s not much available better competition at this weight in Japan, then time to fight elsewhere. At least if he’s serious about becoming a contender. Because fighting at this level forever until you get a title shot could spell disaster when you get that title shot and it’s three levels above anything you’ve fought to date. Jung (13-4-2, 3 KO) gave this an honest effort but was outgunned.
- Yoshiki Takei TKO-11 Bruno Tarimo: Takei (6-0, 6 KO) had never been past the fifth round, and only past the second round once. He had to go late into the 11th for the stoppage here, but he got it. He has some “used to be a kickboxer” facets to his game, and while this fight wasn’t really exciting, it also wasn’t boring. Tarimo (26-4-2, 5 KO) was a good test for Takei and brought good energy and effort, but he was dropped in the first round and hurt a few times along the way. Most of what was tested on Takei’s side here was gas tank and his ability to deal with an early cut, which did seem to bother him but not to the degree that it changed the fight’s tone at any point. His defense seems largely built on using his legs to stay out of range, and boy did Tarimo try to keep him from doing that, though largely unsucessfully.
- Takuma Inoue TKO-8 Jake Bornea: Don’t get too excited seeing a TKO after Takuma’s name, this came on cuts that Bornea’s corner basically refused to actually address in the corner for a couple rounds. Inoue (17-1, 4 KO) is a solid contender at 122 lbs; he’s not his brother, but he can box, he’s no pushover or anything. The lack of power still seems like it’s going to limit him against top opposition, like, I think he’d have an awful time with Stephen Fulton Jr or Murodjon Akhmadaliev, but he also isn’t really in line to fight either. Bornea drops to 14-4-1 (7 KO).