It’s been long decided that Naoya Inoue’s highly anticipated Las Vegas debut was no longer taking place this weekend.
As time marches on, the likelihood of it being rescheduled any time soon continues to decrease.
The unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant from Yokohama, Japan was due to face Philippines’ John Riel Casimero in a clash of three-division and reigning bantamweight titlists. Their multi-belt bantamweight title unification bout was to have aired live on ESPN this Saturday from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, but was postponed in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
There was a point when his stateside promoter, Top Rank was prepared to bring Inoue stateside well in advance when there was still a chance of the fight taking place as scheduled. Casimero hit town on March 15, one day before the bout was officially postponed and thus leaving him stranded given travel restrictions.
Inoue (19-0, 16KOs) never had a chance to leave Japan, and likely won’t be able to for quite some time.
“Unfortunately, I would say no,” Arum told Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher in an interview as part of the Catching Up With Crystina series on Top Rank’s YouTube channel. “They had relaxed rules, relatively relaxed rules regarding this pandemic. The cases in Japan have really picked up. So now, Japan is under a state of emergency.”
Casimero (29-4, 20KOs) remains in Las Vegas to this day, still training if only to keep himself occupied while awaiting clearance for a transpacific trip back home to reunite with his family. The 31-year old has remained in positive spirits, dubbing himself ‘The Monster Hunter’ in playing off Inoue’s ring moniker.
What he might be looking forward to instead, however, are time-marking bouts that can come with the best available resources by Top Rank as they are looking into staging shows without fans in attendance.
“One thing we were considering is having Casimero go over to Japan and do that fight in Japan,” noted Arum. “At one point it appeared possible. It’s no longer possible… and Inoue won’t be able to come here anytime soon.
“Unfortunately, it looks like we have to put that fight on the back burner. Casimero has stayed in the United States, in Las Vegas and perhaps we can talk to his people and do another fight for him.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox