Naoya Inoue and his handlers know who he will fight next.
Determining when and where Inoue will return to the ring is much more complicated. Representatives for Inoue and Michael Dasmarinas, the mandatory challenger for his IBF bantamweight title, reached an agreement recently for them to meet in the coming months and avoided a purse bid.
Ideally, they’d like to schedule Inoue-Dasmarinas for some time in April in Inoue’s native Japan. That’ll depend, however, on when COVID-19 restrictions in Inoue’s home country would allow Dasmarinas to travel there from the Philippines.
ESPN either will televise that fight or offer it on ESPN+, the network’s $6-per-month streaming service.
If it cannot happen within a reasonable amount of time in Japan, Bob Arum, Inoue’s co-promoter, informed BoxingScene.com that their 12-round, 118-pound championship match could take place outside of Japan, perhaps in the United States.
“Here’s the problem with Inoue – they want his fight to be in Japan, his next fight to be in Japan,” Arum said. “The problem is, if you’re not from Japan, you can’t get into Japan. There’s a complete lockdown. Even if you’re willing to spend 14 days in quarantine, you can’t get in now. So, to say, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna happen in April,’ who the hell knows? Yeah, we’d love to have him fight in April. But we may have to bring him out of Japan and have him fight someplace else.”
Inoue’s most recent bout – a seventh-round knockout of Australia’s Jason Moloney on October 31 – was held at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Seventeen of the unbeaten Inoue’s 20 professional fights have taken place in Japan.
“Right now,” Arum said, “being a boxing promoter – putting fights on and scheduling them – more important than my matchmakers would be if I could hire a guy like Dr. Fauci, who will tell me what’s happening.”
The 28-year-old Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20 KOs) has been the mandatory challenger for the IBF bantamweight title since March 2019. That’s when Dasmarinas defeated another Filipino fighter, Kenny Demecillo (14-5-2, 8 KOs), by unanimous decision in a 12-round IBF elimination match.
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old Inoue (20-0, 17 KOs) will be heavily favored to beat him.
“I hear he isn’t a bad fighter,” Arum said in reference to Dasmarinas. “We just have to decide where we’re gonna do it. If the Filipino guy can’t get into Japan, how do you do that fight there?”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.