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Naoya Inoue vs. Paul Butler: Preview and Prediction

Naoya “The Monster” Inoue’s (23-0, 20 KOs) victory over Nonito Donaire on June 7th this year brought him the WBC strap, third in his weight class, and he is now one step away from unifying the bantamweight division.

There is only one more obstacle in front of Naoya Inoue, a battle-hardened British veteran Paul “The Baby-Faced Assassin” Butler (34-2,15 KOs). On December 13th, in Tokyo’s Ariake Arena, these two fighters have a chance to make history.

Is Butler Dangerous for Inoue?

Butler’s record is almost as impressive as Inoue’s, with 34 victories he established himself as one of the best in the division, defeating the likes of Jonas Sultan, Emanuel Rodriguez, Ryan Walker, Jose Aguilar, etc.

Butler’s defense is solid, his fast on his feet, with good head movement, usually attacking with short, crisp combinations of two or three punches. A good technician, with strong fundamentals, English veteran rarely lunges forward. He’s defensively responsible, completely focused on a fight and perfectly conditioned, which allows him to keep a high work rate, even in the championship rounds.

In his last fight against Sultan, “The Baby-Faced Assassin” was in complete control to the end, wining the WBO belt. Many of Inoue’s opponents had the same qualities as Butler but ended up lying on the canvas, Donaire is a perfect example.

Noya Inoue’s Nickname is Well Deserved

The Japanese star is a three-division world champion, and currently a unified bantamweight champion (WBC, WBA, IBF) in only 23 fights. The power is just one part of Inoue’s game.

He is a well-rounded fighter, with excellent timing and counter punching skills. One thing that boxing fans usually forget when talking about Inoue is his balance! “The Monster” is always in good position to defend and attack, which allows him to carefully pick every punch he throws. His shot output is deadly. For example, Inoue landed 107 of 336 against Jason Moloney and 227 of 336 in the first Donaire fight. His ring cutting abilities are improving with every fight and this could be a big problem for Butler.

The best part about Inoue is that he is still improving. Compare his last five or six fights and you’ll see him being more and more defensively responsible. You could see some flaws in his game when Inoue faced Donaire for the first time in 2019. Those flaws are gone, and it’s very hard to find any holes in his game. 

Prediction and What’s Next?

Butler will start carefully, using his good lateral movement to avoid direct confrontation. But, no matter how skillful Butler is, Inoue will cut of the ring and land some of his bombs. Body shots could make a big difference, they could even slow down the English veteran and make his head a much easier target for Inoue’s hooks and uppercuts when he gets close enough. The fight shouldn’t go past round five.

At the end, of course, we have to ask a logical question; what if Inoue moves up in weight again? He’s the favorite to win against Butler, and at the age of 29 in his absolute prime, junior featherweight division seems like a next logical step for him. Many boxing fans and experts wish to see Inoue against Stephen Fulton, or some other title holder in this weight class. “Monster’s” 5´5 height could be a problem, but if he manages to keep his power at higher weight, who knows what could happen!

Featured Image Credit to Getty Images

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