Naoya Inoue vs Paul Butler: Fight Predictions, Start Time, Odds, Date, Preview, Expert Picks

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No stranger to making boxing history, unified bantamweight king Naoya Inoue, considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound in the game, will be looking to put an undisputed title to his resume when he tries to become the first four-belt. champion in 118-pound history.

Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs), who was listed as a 100-1 favorite, will return to his native Japan on Tuesday morning (ESPN+, 2:30 a.m. ET start, main event slated for 6 a.m. ET) to defend his IBF, WBA and WBC titles inside Ariake Arena in Tokyo against WBO titlist Paul Butler (34-2, 15 KOs).

The bantamweight division has not seen an undisputed champion since 1973 when Enrique Pinder held the WBA and WBC. But in today’s four belts, the 29-year-old Inoue looks set to become the ninth man overall to win the feat, joining undisputed champions Canelo Alvarez, Oleksandr Usyk, Jermall Charlo and Devin Haney.

The feat would be just another in the growing legacy of “The Monster,” after Inoue won his first world title in just his sixth pro bout at 108 pounds in 2014 before winning the title at 118 pounds two fights later. Inoue went on to become a three-division champion in 2018 when he claimed the first of his three bantamweight titles.

The only setback in Inoue’s current reign at 118 pounds came when he broke his face against Nonito Donaire in their first fight of 2019, which he hung on to win by decision in the finals of the World Super Boxing Series tournament. The 12-round war was widely hailed as the fight of the year and after taking almost a year off to recover, Inoue returned with a vengeance and went on to finish Donaire in their rematch in June to unify titles again.

Despite the overwhelming odds against him, the 34-year-old Butler went out of his way to make the fight a reality and was willing to travel to enemy territory to do so. A native of England, “The Baby Faced Assassin” captured the interim WBO title in April by decisioning Jonas Sultan before it was upgraded to a full title.

“He’s a man with two arms and two legs,” Butler said of Inoue. “It’s not easy to prepare for someone like him but we’ve prepared as well as we can. There are times in the first Donaire fight where he gets caught, he’s human. He’s not a robot there

“I know he calls himself ‘The Monster’, but he’s not a monster, this big beast. He showed vulnerability against Donaire in the first fight and I have to go out and find them and take advantage of them.”

The biggest problem for Butler is that the first Donaire fight may have been the only time Inoue has looked human – yet he won the fight and is 4-0 with four devastating bouts since, including knocking out Donaire in the rematch.

Inoue has few peers at any weight as one of the most dangerous and skilled fighters of the moment. He can box and control distance with ease and is a finisher with both hands who has carried his power up with every time he has stepped up in weight.

“I have a lot of different strategies and I go into the ring and then I decide how to play it by instinct,” Inoue said. “Butler’s tactics are pretty much set but not nothing is decided by my boxing in advance. I will decide how to attack after I face him.”

Both of Butler’s losses have come on the world title level, including an eighth-round TKO loss to Zolani Tete in 2018 for the IBF title at 115 pounds and a wide decision loss to Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2018 for the IBF bantamweight title, which Inoue now holds after finishing Rodriguez in Round 2 the following year.

Butler is 8-0 since losing to Rodriguez but has never previously fought outside of his native England.

“I’m looking for a good fight and it should be a top four belt fight between the top two heavyweights in the division,” Butler said. “It’s the first time it’s been done so yeah I hope I can bring four belts back to England.”

Let’s take a closer look at the odds for Caesars Sportsbook’s main event before we get to expert predictions and picks.

Fight card, odds

  • Naoya Inoue (c) -6000 vs. Paul Butler (c) +1800, undisputed bantamweight titles

Prediction

With just 15 KOs in 34 pro wins, it’s hard to even give Butler a puncher’s chance in arguably the most lopsided title fight on paper since Terence Crawford knocked out Julius Indongo in 2017 to take all four titles claim at 140 pounds.

Anything Butler does well, Inoue does better. And even though Inoue initially weighed in a tenth of a pound over the bantamweight limit on Monday, he weighed in cleanly on the second attempt and may have to suffer some kind of injury mixed with bad luck for a possible route. victory for Butler.

The fight is expected to be Inoue’s last at 118 pounds before he begins even more history in a fourth weight division. As for Butler taking the fight, the result feels like a lost decision.

Select: Inoue via KO2

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