bet365's Rob Tebbutt previews Tuesday morning's undisputed bantamweight world title bout between pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue and two-time world champion Paul Butler.
There are few things that please me more than a mid-week show.
There’s nothing quite like turning up at the office, sitting down with a cup of coffee and a bacon roll and tuning in to watch world-class boxing.
On Tuesday morning, Japan’s unified bantamweight king Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs) (1/50) looks to become the first four-belt, undisputed world champion in his nation’s history as he takes on Britain’s WBO champion Paul Butler (34-2, 15 KOs) (14/1) in Tokyo.
Inoue, long-regarded as one of the sport’s very best pound-for-pound fighters, has blazed a trail of destruction through the 118lbs division since moving up to blitz Jamie McDonnell in a round in May 2018.
Since then, the aptly named ‘Monster’ has won seven fights against six different opponents, knocking each of them out in spectacular fashion - though he did require a rematch to KO modern great Nonito Donaire.
After their 2019 ‘Fight of the Year’ went the distance, Inoue would mercilessly run through ‘The Filipino Flash’ in under two rounds in their rematch last time out, dropping Donaire twice in one of the most devastating performances of his career.
So freakish is his power that 16 of Inoue’s 20 KOs have come before the half-way stage.
In recent years, top contender Jason Moloney and mandatory challenger Arun Dipaen managed to survive until the seventh and eighth round respectively, but Inoue isn’t one to play with his food. If he has you hurt, he will get you out of there: 50% of his knockouts have come in three rounds or less.
He now has his eyes fixed upon Liverpool’s Paul Butler.
Butler, an experienced campaigner and two-time world champion in his own right, won the WBO Interim title with a disciplined decision win over Jonas Sultan in April.
Bet on Naoya Inoue vs Paul Butler
After the WBO stripped John Riel Casimero due to weight issues, Butler was elevated to full champion and now sits as the sole obstacle in the way of Inoue’s quest for undisputed. An unenviable position for some.
Despite capturing the IBF bantamweight title against Stuart Hall in June 2014, Butler’s resume has little in the way of a signature victory - certainly nothing to suggest he can upset Inoue.
His ill-fated move down to super-flyweight in March 2015 ended in disaster as he was knocked out by South Africa’s Zolani Tete in eight rounds.
Fast forward three years and the Liverpudlian would come up short against Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez over 12 rounds in an unsuccessful challenge for the IBF bantamweight title. Rodriguez would be knocked out in just two rounds by Inoue a couple of fights later.
Butler is a capable fighter who can hang with most world level operators. It is a level that young boxers could only dream to one day reach and it is testament to himself and trainer Joe Gallagher that he is in a fight of this magnitude.
With that in mind, it is not slight on him to say that he is significantly out-gunned here. Away from home and facing one of the best fighters of his generation, a win for Butler would rank right up there with Leamington’s Randolph Turpin shocking the world against the great ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson in 1951. Even then, Turpin did that on home soil…
A murderous puncher with genius-level ring IQ awaits Paul Butler in Tokyo.
Butler will enter the bout with all of the confidence that a defending world champion should have, and an opportunity to etch his name into the annals of boxing history: but it’s a tough ask. Maybe the toughest ask in boxing.
Should Butler decide (as many expect) to get on the back-foot and try and survive until the later rounds, then a price of 11/4 in rounds 4-6 looks the best value bet.