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Naoya Inoue next fight on April 25, possible opponents Oubaali and Riel Casimero

Image: Naoya Inoue next fight on April 25, possible opponents Oubaali and Riel Casimero

By Chris Williams: Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue will be fighting in four months from now on April 25 in Las Vegas, according to his co-promoter Bob Arum. The unbeaten IBF/WBA bantamweight champion Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) will be looking to fight a unification match against either WBC 118-lb champion Nordine Oubaali 17-0, 12 KOs) or newly crowned WBO belt holder John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs).

Monster Inoue wants to unify 118-lb division before moving to 122

Inoue, 26, wants to unify the bantamweight division to try and become the undisputed 118-llb champion. For him to do that, he’ll beat to beat Oubaali and Riel Casimero. That could prove difficult, since #1 WBC Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) and #2 WBC Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are breathing down Oubaali’s neck, and they want to snatch his title from.

Nordine Oubaali being targeted by Donaire and Rungvisai

Oubaali looks very beatable, and he’d likely be over his head against Donaire or Rungvisai. Inoue had all he could handle in beating Donaire by a 12 round unanimous decision on November 7 in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. It would be nice for Donaire to get the first crack at Oubaali, since he’s ranked #1 with the World Boxing Council, and he’s better known to U.S fans.

Inoue is a fighter that Top Rank is trying to turn into a superstar in the States, but they’ve got a lot of work to do to make that happen. It doesn’t help Top Rank that Inoue is focuses on trivial goals of unifying the 118-lb division. If unifying the bantamweight division translated to increased popularity for Inoue, then it would be a worthy goal, but it’s pointless.

The casual U.S boxing fans have never heard of Oubaali and Riel Casimero, and Inoue will gain little in beating them. He would be better off either fighting Donaire in a rematch or moving up to super bantamweight to take on WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete. There’s a lot of boxing fans that would love to see Inoue vs. Navarrete, and that’s a match that Arum has already said that he wants to make.

Inoue took damage in Donaire fight

The last thing that Inoue likely wants right now is a rematch with Donaire, as he suffered a cracked cheekbone, and fractured nose in their fight last November. Inoue couldn’t stand in the pocket against Donaire because he was being rattled apart by the heavy shots from the Filipino Flash.

The smart thing for Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum to would be to match Inoue against Oubaali in April, and then go after Riel Casimero. Those fights aren’t going to be easy for Inoue, but they’ll likely involve him sustaining less punishment than he would in a rematch against Donaire.

Nonito is the mandatory for Oubaali and if he wins that belt, he’s not going to catch and release like it’s a fish. Donaire, 37, wants the rematch against Inoue, because it would be an excellent payday. Moreover, Donaire believes he can improve on the mistakes he made last time. A new and improved Donaire would be a big problem for Inoue.

Oubaali gives Inoue the revenge opponent

In his last fight, Oubaali defeated Inoue’s brother Takuma by a 12 round unanimous decision on November 7 on the undercard of Inoue-Donaire in Saitama, Japan.  Inoue is said to be interested in getting revenge by fighting Oubaali, but unfortunately it won’t change what happened. Takuma was exposed by Oubaali, and he’ll have further problems if he chooses to fight other good bantamweights.

There are some good fights that would speed up Inoue’s rise to the top, but Oubaali and Riel Casimero aren’t the ones that he needs. These are the fighters that Inoue should face if he wants to become a star in the U.S in a rapid manner:

  • Nonito Donaire – rematch
  • Emanuel Navarrete
  • Rey Vargas
  • Daniel Roman
  • TJ Doheny
  • Brandon Figueroa
  • Isaac Dogboe
  • Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai
  • Luis Nery
  • Shakur Stevenson
  • Gary Russell Jr.
  • Leo Santa Cruz




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