The 2019 fight of the year is moving closer to seeing a sequel.
A bantamweight championship unification bout between WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine titlist Naoya Inoue and WBC crownholder Nonito Donaire is currently in negotiations to be staged for April in Japan, Donaire promoter and Probellum CEO Richard Schaefer told BoxingScene.com in an interview on Monday.
Schaefer said he’s currently in discussions with Inoue promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions to bring the bout to Asia this spring. Inoue is also co-promoted by Top Rank ever since signing a deal with the American outfit shortly after defeating Donaire.
“This is definitely a fight we would love to do and Nonito would love to have it as well. We don’t have a problem going to Japan. Donaire has the balls to go into the lion's den again. This is one of the biggest fights you can make in the sport,” said Schaefer. “I can’t speak on behalf of Inoue, but I know that’s the fight he wants as well. I’ve always believed that when there is a big fight to be made, you make it – and this is a big fight. I am going to exhaust every resource and will not leave any stone unturned to pull off this fight. This is what Nonito and the fight fans want. We as a sport need to deliver it. I believe we’ll get it done.”
Inoue (22-0, 19 KOs) and Donaire (42-6, 28 KOs) met on Nov. 7, 2019 at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan as part of the World Boxing Super Series finals, and it was the hometown hero Inoue who pulled out a spirited unanimous decision victory with scores of 111-116, 113-114 and 109-117.
Donaire suffered a knockdown in the thrilling fight, and Inoue battled through a broken right eye socket in the savage slugfest that saw Inoue land 227 punches compared to 141 by Donaire.
“Both guys have only gotten bigger since that fight, and probably even better, which is interesting to say especially in regard to Nonito,” said Schaefer.
The 28-year-old Inoue and 39-year-old Donaire have been on a collision course to meet again ever since Donaire recaptured the 118-pound WBC title by beating undefeated Frenchman Nordine Oubaali via fourth-round KO in May.
“The Filipino Flash” Donaire – a four-division champion at 115, 118, 122, and 126 pounds – also defeated fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo with a bludgeoning fourth-round body shot on Dec. 11. Donaire, a 2012 fighter of the year, became the oldest bantamweight champion in boxing history and improved to 13-1 in the weight class. After the fight, he pleaded for another encounter with Inoue and has even since entertained the idea of dropping to 115 pounds to face the winner of the March trilogy bout between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez.
Three days after Donaire bested Gaballo, on Dec. 14, “The Monster” Inoue easily handled outmatched challenger Aran Dipaen in Japan and scored a TKO in round eight. In the two fights following the Donaire affair and preceding Dipaen, Inoue has further asserted his position atop boxing’s pound-for-pound list by knocking out both Jason Moloney in October 2020 and Michael Dasmarinas in June.
Should an Inoue fight not materialize, Schaeffer said Donaire could also consider a bout at 122 pounds, specifically with WBO and WBC champion Stephen Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs).
“There are different opportunities in and around those weight classes,” said Schaeffer.
Another potential bout for Donaire could be the other champion at 118 pounds in WBO titlist John Riel Casimero. An all-Filipino fight was in the cards last summer when Casimero and Donaire had their fight announced but later scrapped after Donaire was unhappy with Casimero’s VADA enrollment.
Casimero (31-4, 21 KOs) went on to instead beat former Donaire conqueror Guillermo Rigondeaux in August and was scheduled to headline a Probellum card against mandatory Paul Butler in December, but the Filipino was forced to pull out of the bout prior to the weigh-in citing a battle with gastritis.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.