Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire are set to do it again and with even more at stake the second time around.
The world’s top two bantamweights are officially set for their long-discussed rematch, which BoxingScene.com has confirmed will take place June 7 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The three-belt unification bout—Inoue’s WBA/IBF titles at stake along with Donaire’s WBC strap—will be carried live on Japan’s Amazon Prime Video.
U.S. television distribution rights were not made available at the time of Wednesday’s announcement, though BoxingScene.com has learned that such plans will be revealed in the coming weeks.
The fight has been in the making for several months, and with the intention to return to the site of their terrific November 2019 encounter.
Inoue (22-0, 19KOs)—a three-division titlist and among the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters from Yokohama, Japan—overcame a fractured orbital bone around his right eye to outpoint Donaire (42-6, 28KOs) over twelve rounds by scores of 114-113, 117-109 and 116-111. Inoue also suffered a cut above his right eye and was clipped by a Donaire right hand in round nine, but sealed the victory following a body shot knockdown in the eleventh round of their WBA/IBF unification bout and World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament final.
Donaire has fought twice since the loss to Inoue, bouncing back in a big way.
The legendary four-division champion entered a third bantamweight title reign following a stunningly one-sided, fourth-round knockout of unbeaten WBC titlist Nordine Oubaali last May 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Donaire broke his own record as the oldest fighter in history to win a major bantamweight title, winning the WBC strap at 38 ½ years old. It came nearly 31 months after his November 2018 injury stoppage win of Ryan Burnett to claim the WBA belt one week before his 36th birthday.
Philippines’ Donaire—who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—returned to Dignity Health Sports Park for his most recent win, a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten countryman Reymart Gaballo last December. Wedged in between the two fights were a failed effort to proceed with a planned August 14 WBC/WBO unification bout with Casimero, which involved a very public feud though the two sides have since patched up their differences.
Inoue has won three fights since his memorable win over Donaire, though admittedly needing three months to recover from the injuries suffered in the bout before moving forward with his career.
The first fight back was to have been a three-belt unification bout with Casimero (31-4, 21KOs) in April 2020 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The fight was shut down due to the initial wave of the global pandemic, with plans never revisited.
Inoue has since moved on with his career. The unbeaten 27-year-old has scored three knockouts in as many fights, including a one-sided eighth-round knockout win over Aran Dipaen last December at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. The fight was the first in Japan for Inoue since his win over Donaire, though even with his long-awaited return met with its share of hurdles.
The nation’s strict Covid protocols resulted in the borders closed to foreign travels from November 30 through earlier this month. Such measures led to a three-plus month delay in staging the WBA/IBF middleweight title unification bout between Ryota Murata (16-2, 13KOs) and Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36KOs).
The bout was due to take place last December 29 but was postponed until April 9, also taking place at Saitama Super Arena and airing live on Amazon Prime in Japan.
The postponement caused a ripple effect, with Inoue and Donaire—who long ago agreed to terms—forced to wait, as event handlers wanted to put space between the two blockbuster shows.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox