Inoue-Butler Full Report & GIANT Photo Gallery

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By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda

“Monster” Naoya Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), 117.75, unified all the four belts of the bantamweight category when he patiently kept stalking the WBO titlist Paul Butler (34-3, 15 KOs), 118, and finally sank him with a flurry of punches at 1:09 of the eleventh round in a scheduled twelve in Tokyo, Japan. Some 15,000 sellout spectators were in attendance at Ariake Arena, newly constructed for the 2021 Olympic Games. Naoya, usually an early finisher, didn’t try to bring home the bacon early but steadily weakened the cautious counterpart from UK with his constant pressure on him. Inoue this time demonstrated his skills in jabbing with precision, averting a few but occasional punches from Butler and giving him a lesson of punching upstairs and downstairs. Having both hands down like Roy Jones Jr. to urge Butler to punch out of his peek-a-boo shell in round six, Inoue attempted to have the negative champ more aggressive, but in vain. Butler didn’t become more positive in trading punches with Inoue throughout the contest.

“For what did you come to Japan? Not to win over me and win the belts?” said Naoya, after his victory, on his interim impression of Butler’s strategy during the bout. Frustrated by Paul’s extremely defensive strategy, he was bewildered but decided to patiently take the initiative and open the way to finally demolish him in the end. Naoya kept jabbing to penetrate Paul’s tight guard, which had him nose-bleeding and had the face reddened. To the eyes of the huge crowd Butler looked more intimidated than cautious by Inoue’s superior power.

The eleventh round saw “Monster” Naoya turn more aggressive by changing the gear and swarm over the still defensive peek-a-boo stylist, who was pinned to the ropes from the power of storm. It was Inoue that accelerated his attack. Right hook to the side of the belly, left hook to the temple, right to the face, left hook to the liver (most lethal) and right hook. Down he went. Butler fell prone, and then rolled over upward with his back to the canvas. He stayed there for a while due to the pain of Naoya’s vicious body shots.

The referee Bence Kovacs from Hungary, with a good footwork, called a halt then and there. The result was once announced by Jimmy Lennon Jr. as a TKO victory of Naoya, but it was later amended as a knockout by the JBC.

All the tallies were logically identical as 100-90 by judges Fernando Barbosa, Ron McNair (both US) and Ignacio Robles (Panama). Butler couldn’t even win a point in such a lopsided affair.

Naoya, 29, thus unified the four belts all by knockout or TKO—over Jamie McDonnell (TKO1; WBA), Emmanuel Rodriguez (KO2; IBF), Nonito Donaire (TKO2; WBC) and Paul Butler (KO11; WBO).

The four-belt undisputed champ Naoya jubilantly said, “I kept punching and punching from the start to the end, and I’m truly tired. But I felt relieved to see the four belts in my hand altogether. Butler might wait for me to slow down in the second half, but I instead accelerated an attack with my abundant stamina.”

Asked about his future plan, Naoya replied, “I have nothing left to prove more in the bantamweight division. I wish to move up to the super bantam class. I’m looking forward to seeing a new scene before me at 122, and wish to collect four belts again in the next division.”

The crestfallen loser Butler said, “Inoue’s punches were truly faster and more accurate than expected. He was too fast for me to cope with his speed. His body shots were very powerful and painful.”

His dejected trainer Joe Gallager said, “Naoya Inoue’s boxing brain, speed and power belong to a different level of bantamweight boxers. He is worth being top pound-for-pound.” Joe probably intended to make the fight long and have Butler retaliate with Naoya’s fatigue caused by a high pace, but his fight plan wouldn’t result in a success.

This reporter has seen boxing game for sixty-five years and watched all Japanese vs. Briton encounters, but Paul Butler was much inferior to Howard Winstone (against Mitsunori Seki), Alan Rudkin (against Fighting Harada) and Ken Buchanan (against Guts Ishimatsu) in terms of skills and fighting spirit.

Listed up in the below-written table are the undisputed champions since Bernard Hopkins unified the world middleweight belts in 2004. Naoya Inoue is the ninth unified champ in the kingdom of four-belt holders. Will he be able to do the same again in the 122-pound division?

“Monster” Naoya coolly said, “This isn’t a goal for me but just a stepping stone.”

Promoter: Ohashi Promotions.

Supervisors: Mauro Betti (WBC), Tsuyoshi Yasukochi (WBA), Ben Keilty (IBF) and Leon Panoncillo (WBO).

No. Name Country Class Yr achieved
1 Bernard Hopkins US Middle 2004
2 Jermain Taylor US Middle 2005
3 Terrence Crawford US S. Light 2017
4 Oleksandr Usyk Ukraine Cruiser 2018
5 Josh Taylor US S. Light 2021
6 Saul Alvarez Mexico S. Middle 2021
7 Jermell Charlo US S. Welter 2022
8 Devin Haney US Light 2022
9 Naoya Inoue Japan Bantam 2022


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