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Naoya Inoue defeats Nonito Donaire: Who will Inoue fight next?

It was a fabulous performance for the Japanese champion at 118 lbs. What is his next challenge, and can he unify the division?

Japan’s Naoya Inoue celebrates after winning against Thailand’s Aran Dipaen during their WBA and IBF bantamweight title fight boxing match at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on December 14, 2021. Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

In perhaps the most impressive performance of his career, Naoya Inoue knocked out Nonito Donaire at 1:24 of the second round to add the WBC bantamweight championship to the WBA and IBF belts he already held.

Inoue displayed tremendous hand speed and power, knocking out one of the great champions in the history of boxing. While nearly three years ago the two combatants put on the fight of the year, there was never any doubt in this one. Inoue (23-0, 20 KO) now has most of the belts available, but there’s still one to be added to become the only recognized champion at 118 lbs.

Paul Butler (34-2, 15 KO) is the WBO bantamweight champion, and to unify and become the undisputed champion this would be the fight to take. The Englishman is a draw in his country, but with the enthusiasm “The Monster” has in his home country, Inoue might want to fight in Japan yet again.

Both sides are looking to put this bout together by the end of the year, with the winner unifying the titles in the division. It unquestionably should be the next bout, and now boxing fans just wait for a date and a venue.