Naoya Inoue toys with Paul Butler before late TKO to become undisputed bantamweight champion

The Japanese fighter stopped his British opponent in the 11th round in Tokyo

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Tuesday 13 December 2022 12:32 GMT
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Naoya Inoue (left) stopped Paul Butler in Round 11 in Tokyo
Naoya Inoue (left) stopped Paul Butler in Round 11 in Tokyo (AP)

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Naoya Inoue became undisputed bantamweight champion on Tuesday, securing a TKO against Paul Butler in the 11th round.

Japanese fighter Inoue had the home advantage in Tokyo, and he displayed in-ring advantages throughout the main-event contest, too, toying with Butler from the opening bell.

Inoue, 29, entered the Ariake Arena with an unbeaten record and never looked in danger of losing it, or his IBF, WBA and WBC titles as he sought to claim Butler’s WBO belt.

Inoue, nicknamed the “Monster”, backed up the Briton for the first half of the contest, mixing up his offence with spiteful hooks to the body and piercing straight punches to the head, while Butler’s rare moments of activity did not seem to faze Inoue.

Butler’s focus was largely on maintaining a high guard and relying on lateral movement to steer clear of Inoue, who exhibited masterful head movement when needed to stay just out of range of the 34-year-old’s sporadic attacks.

As the contest wore on, a bored-looking Inoue began to taunt Butler, fighting with his hands low and his chin jutting out, inviting the WBO title holder to strike.

Butler, whose inferior speed and power were evident, never truly opened up enough for Inoue to land the kind of counter shot that he appeared to want, however, and so the Japanese bantamweight set about finding a finish in the 10th round.

Inoue finally floored and finished Butler in the 11th round
Inoue finally floored and finished Butler in the 11th round (AP)

After freezing Butler by blasting him with a brutal hook the body, Inoue unloaded a flurry of headshots on his opponent, who was backed up against the ropes. Butler covered up, crouched, then collapsed to the canvas. Moments later, the Briton was laid flat on his front, holding his head, and the referee waved off the contest.

Inoue’s victory saw him make history as the first ever Asian boxer to hold four world titles in a weight class at once. The three-weight world champion also said a move to super-bantamweight is likely next for him.

Tuesday’s result took Inoue’s record to 24-0 (21 knockouts), while Butler’s fell to 34-3 (15 KOs).

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