“The Monster” is coming to America, and he won’t get a tune-up bout in his Top Rank debut.
Reigning IBF/WBA bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) has agreed to fight WBO champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs) in the main event of an April 25th card in Las Vegas, Nevada. The significance of the date and location is that the NFL Draft is also in Vegas (concluding on that same day), so Top Rank and ESPN are presumably looking to heavily promote Inoue’s fight between that and the NBA playoffs.
Inoue is one of the best boxers in the world and perhaps the most exciting one to watch. The young Japanese sensation is a three-weight world champion and is coming off a Fight of the Year caliber decision win over Nonito Donaire to win the World Boxing Super Series tournament, as well as unify the WBA and IBF titles.
He has an impressive resume for someone with just 19 fights, and at bantamweight he preceded his Donaire victories with quick and brutal knockouts of Manny Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Payano, and Jamie McDonnell. Inoue is a superstar in his native country, but his only appearance in the USA came three years ago against Antonio Nieves, whom he stopped to defend his WBO super-flyweight title.
Casimero hails from The Philippines and is promoted by the great Manny Pacquiao. He was the IBF flyweight and junior flyweight champion prior to his recent move up to bantamweight. As the interim WBO champion, Casimero took on full WBO champ Zolani Tete this past November. With Tete as a considerable favorite, Casimero pulled off a shock upset and won by third-round TKO against the South African.
Both men are aggressive punchers, so this should be an action-packed battle. Inoue has extraordinary power for his size and a wide array of offensive skills, but while he’s likely to be a big favorite against Casimero, this could be competitive.
It is a pleasant surprise that Inoue’s first fight under the Top Rank banner won’t involve a “get to know him” squash match, but rather a unification bout that will see the winner possess three of the four major belts at 118 lbs, with WBC champion Nordine Oubaali as the only other titleholder. It is expected that Oubaali will face mandatory challenger Nonito Donaire later this year.