One of the best fights on the immediate boxing schedule finally has a U.S. platform on which it will air.
The highly anticipated rematch between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire will stream live on ESPN+, ending weeks of speculation for their previously announced June 7 WBC/WBA/IBF bantamweight unification bout from Saitama Arena in Saitama, Japan. Top Rank, Inoue's U.S.-based promoter, confirmed the news Tuesday, putting to rest any concern that stateside fight fans would have to miss out on viewing the fight live.
“Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire’s first fight is among the greatest championship battles I’ve ever seen," said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. "I am thrilled that American fight fans can watch the rematch on ESPN+."
The bout will also air live on Amazon Prime Video in Japan, as previously reported by BoxingScene.com. U.S coverage will begin 5:00 am ET/2:00 am PT, with undercard action including Takuma Inoue, Naoya's younger brother and current junior featherweight contender.
Inoue (22-0, 19KOs)—a three-division titlist and among the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters from Yokohama, Japan—overcame a fractured orbital bone around his right eye to outpoint Donaire (42-6, 28KOs) over twelve rounds by scores of 114-113, 117-109 and 116-111. Inoue also suffered a cut above his right eye and was clipped by a Donaire right hand in round nine, but sealed the victory following a body shot knockdown in the eleventh round of their WBA/IBF unification bout and World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament final, which streamed live on DAZN.
Inoue signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank, which was announced immediately after the fight.
Donaire has fought twice since the loss to Inoue, bouncing back in a big way. The legendary four-division champion entered a third bantamweight title reign following a stunningly one-sided, fourth-round knockout of unbeaten WBC titlist Nordine Oubaali last May 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Donaire broke his own record as the oldest fighter in history to win a major bantamweight title, winning the WBC strap at 38 ½ years old. It came nearly 31 months after his November 2018 injury stoppage win of Ryan Burnett to claim the WBA belt one week before his 36th birthday.
Philippines’ Donaire—who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—returned to Dignity Health Sports Park for his most recent win, a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten countryman Reymart Gaballo last December. Wedged in between the two fights were a failed effort to proceed with a planned August 14 WBC/WBO unification bout with Casimero, which involved a very public feud though the two sides have since patched up their differences.
Inoue has won three fights since his memorable win over Donaire, though admittedly needing three months to recover from the injuries suffered in the bout before moving forward with his career.
The first fight back was to have been a three-belt unification bout with Casimero (31-4, 21KOs) in April 2020 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The fight was shut down due to the initial wave of the global pandemic, with plans never revisited.
Inoue has since moved on with his career. The unbeaten 27-year-old has scored three knockouts in as many fights, including a one-sided eighth-round knockout win over Aran Dipaen last December at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. The fight was the first in Japan for Inoue since his win over Donaire more than two years ago.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox