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Naoya Inoue vs. Paul Butler: Preview, Prediction & Betting Odds

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Naoya Inoue vs. Paul Butler: Preview, Prediction & Betting Odds
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Naoya Inoue Expected To Become Undisputed At Bantamweight when he faces Paul Butler on Tuesday live from Japan.

There's an undisputed title fight happening in a few days. Tuesday, December 13, is the date that will see all the titles in the bantamweight division up for grabs. Tuesday's winner will become the first undisputed 118-pound champion in 50 years. Tokyo's Arikale Arena will host as WBC, IBF, WBA, and Ring Magazine champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue (23-0, 20KOs) faces off against WBO champion Paul Butler (34-2, 15KOs).

Inoue, from Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, is the red-hot favourite to match the achievement of his compatriot Masahiko “Fighting” Harada, who was undisputed champion in this weight division from 1965 to 1967. If Butler somehow prevented this from happening, it would be one of the biggest boxing upsets of all time.

 At 29 years old and in his prime, Inoue looks too much for any bantamweight in the world. His scorching second-round stoppage of Nonito Donaire in their hotly anticipated rematch in June emphasized his status as the top bantamweight on the planet. The Monster is currently ranked as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world by the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board. Ring Magazine and ESPN have him second on their lists.

These positions are justified as Inoue marries speed, timing, and brilliant footwork with bone-rattling power. Fifteen out of his twenty KO wins have occurred before the halfway point had been reached. Closing the show early is about more than brute force though.

Hard-hitting may be what one first thinks of when Inoue is mentioned, but watching his bouts, he is revealed to be a patient boxer. He waits for the correct time to detonate an explosive shot – often after subjecting his foe to a barrage of punishing body punches. His footwork is top-class and moves opponents into areas they don't want to be in. Once an opening presents itself, Inoue finishes in a clinical fashion.

Inoue pointed this out when discussing his fighting style in relation to what Butler may bring to Japan. “If Butler utilizes his jab, speed, and lateral movement, I think it will be a long battle. A lot of people think I am a quick KO puncher, always knocking opponents out in the early rounds, but I'm actually not a hyper-aggressive fighter. I'm going to have to figure out how Butler will come out and how we'll engage,” he told The Ring in August.

Paul Butler hails from Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, England, and is 34 years old. Butler is a solid pro who has had a highly respectable run to reach this point in his career. On April 22, Butler boxed beautifully in scoring a unanimous decision victory over Jonas Sultan to put himself in a position to box for the undisputed title in Tokyo.

Butler had initially been scheduled to face then-WBO title holder John Riel Casimero of the Philippines on that April date. Casimero steamed himself out of that fight by contravening British Boxing Board of Control rules by taking himself to the sauna to lose weight during fight week. He was scratched, and Sultan subbed in. Butler's win over Sultan granted him interim-champion status with the WBO. Several days later, Burler was upgraded to full champion after Casimero was stripped of the title.

Butler also held the IBF version of the bantamweight crown back in 2014, thanks to a hard-fought win over countryman Stuart Hall. The boxer, who carries the moniker “Baby Faced Assassin” to the ring and is trained by Joe Gallagher, has struggled in his two previous bouts against world-class opposition. A 2015 attempt to win the IBF super-flyweight title ended in a TKO loss after Zolani Tete connected with an uppercut in the eighth round. Boxing against Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2018 saw Butler shut out on two of the scorecards and only awarded two rounds on the other as he fell to a lopsided unanimous decision defeat against the Puerto Rican.

With experience and his high ring IQ, Paul Butler is the type of boxer who can thrive just below the elite level. Butler's footwork and movement are very good. He has poise and composure in the ring and will be well-prepared after a grueling 10-week training camp with Gallagher. Butler also possesses grit and determination and is an accurate counter-puncher. The problem he has here is Inoue is operating on a different level.

Butler himself acknowledged this. “You look around at the divisions, there are question marks over everyone in terms of who is the best, but Inoue stands out in the bantamweight division. I don't think anyone out there is saying so and so will beat Inoue at bantamweight. It is the toughest task in boxing, but it is something that I have signed up for,” the fighter said to his local newspaper, The Liverpool Echo, in November.

In writing an argument for Butler beating Inoue for Japan-Forward's SportsLook recently, much of my theory was based on Inoue looking beyond this fight or being tight at the 118-pound limit as he prepares to move up to super-bantamweight after this bout. The truth is Inoue is far too professional for either of these things to be an issue in this fight. The opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Fighting Harada and Enrique Pinder, the last undisputed bantamweight champion way back in 1972, doesn't come around very often.

For fans in America, ESPN+ will broadcast Inoue vs. Butler. Set your alarms nice and early for Tuesday. At the time of writing, there is no UK TV coverage agreed upon; hopefully, this will change.

Naoya Inoue vs. Paul Butler Prediction

As an experienced, dedicated professional who has battled back to the top after two defeats, Butler deserves the opportunity to test himself against Inoue. It says here that his ring smarts, concentration, and lateral movement skills will prevent him from becoming another early, early Inoue victim. Once the Monster settles into the rhythm of what is in front of him, the narrative will change. Inoue will become the undisputed bantamweight champion before the end of the sixth round on Tuesday.

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.