Inoue: This Fight Is To Set Up A Title Unification Next Spring

Naoya Inoue understands the criticism surrounding his latest opponent selection.

A desire to fight at home came with the decision by the pound-for-pound entrant and three-division titlist to accept the equivalent of a stay-busy affair in lieu of a blockbuster showdown. Just don’t expect Inoue to approach his voluntary WBA/IBF bantamweight defense versus Thailand’s Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11KOs) as anything other than the most dangerous challenge of his career.

“Japanese fans don’t want this fight for me,” Inoue acknowledged in a pre-fight promotion preceding Tuesday’s Abema Pay-Per-View main event at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. “I don’t think fans want to see a fight against an opponent like this.

“This fight is to set up a title unification next spring. For that reason, I think this is an important fight.

“I am happy to fight again in Japan. One of my goals (for 2021) was to be able to fight in front of Japanese fans. I can only fight in front of a limited number of fans who come to the venue.”

Inoue (21-0, 18KOs) fights for the first time in his Japan homeland since a November 2019 win over Nonito Donaire at Saitama Super Arena. Inoue claimed a thrilling twelve-round win to unify the WBA and IBF titles while also winning the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament.  

Hopes of further unifying versus WBO titlist John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21KOs) were thwarted by the pandemic and have yet to be revisited. Inoue has instead defended his unified crown with knockout wins over Jason Moloney last October and IBF mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas this past June, with both taking place in Las Vegas.

Philippines’ Casimero hasn’t fared much better, having faced unbeaten but overmatched Duke Micah whom he knocked out inside of three rounds last September. The bout was his lone appearance since the pandemic until this past August, when he claimed a twelve-round win over lineal junior featherweight champ and former secondary bantamweight title holder Guillermo Rigondeaux in an unwatchable title defense this past August.

Donaire (42-6, 28KOs) has made his way back into the title picture following a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten WBC bantamweight titlist Nordine Oubaali this past May 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The legendary Fil-Am superstar returned to the same venue for his latest win, a fourth-round body-shot knockout of unbeaten WBC interim titlist Reymart Gaballo (24-1, 20KOs) in their title consolidation clash Saturday evening.

Casimero was also due to fight this past Saturday in a WBO mandatory title defense versus Paul Butler. The bout fell apart less than 36 hours from the opening bell, when the brash Fiipino reportedly suffered from gastritis in withdrawing from the weigh-in and the fight itself. Assuming he can provide medical proof of the ailment, Casimero will enter 2022 having to revisit his mandatory.

That would leave Inoue and Donaire to look to each other once again, as both are eager to further unify the bantamweight division. Both are not due to make a mandatory title defense, which leaves the door open for such a showdown assuming Inoue takes care of business on Tuesday.

“I’ve heard about a possible unification fight next spring,” notes Inoue, who makes the fourth defense of his IBF bantamweight title and third as a unified champ. “So this is a (tune-up) for a unification fight.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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Gilberto Ramirez Hungers To Secure Bivol Shot, Expects Eventual Cruiser Move

Former world champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez is ready to face another Cuban veteran, when he takes on Yunieski Gonzalez on December 18 in San Antonio, Texas. DAZN will stream the contest.

The bout has been sanctioned as a WBA final eliminator at 175-pounds, with the winner getting a crack at world champion Dmitry Bivol.

Ramirez is coming off a knockout win over another Cuban fighter, Sullivan Barrera.

The Mexican boxer is taking this fight very seriously – as he’s one step away from securing a mandatory crack at Bivol.

The goal for Ramirez is to unify titles at 175 and then eventually make a move to cruiserweight. 

“I started to watch [Gonzalez’s] videos, to investigate him, but I was ready, because I was training and waiting to face Dmitry Bivol. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but the good thing is that I come back against this fighter who comes forward all the time. It’s going to be a good fight,” Ramirez told George Ebro.

“I don’t take any challenge lightly. I know that he will come prepared, that it is the fight of his life and that he will not miss that moment. I take it very seriously, because this fight is to define the mandatory challenger to the champion. He knows how important this fight is and we both want to win. But in the end I’m going to win.

“I feel better [at 175-pounds], I have gained muscle mass. I am now a native in the light heavyweight division. In the super middleweight division it was already difficult for me to make the weight. I also know that at 175, eventually, I am going to have a hard time staying at the weight and I will have to go cruiserweight.”

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Nunez vs. Arrieta Tops ShoBox Tripleheader on January 7 in Orlando

ShoBox: The New Generation will kick off the 2022 boxing calendar with a tripleheader featuring six undefeated fighters Friday, January 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT from Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, Fla.

The three undefeated matchups include fighters with a combined record of 80-0 and 57 knockouts and marks the first time ShoBox has featured a tripleheader in which all six fighters enter fight night without a loss in the 20-plus year history of the prospect series. The event is also the first time ShoBox will take place in Orlando as the Dominican Republic’s Luis Nunez (15-0, 11 KOs), who made his ShoBox debut in September, battles Carlos Arrieta (14-0, 8 KOs) of Puerto Rico in a 10-round lightweight main event.

The co-feature pits hard-hitting Starling Castillo (16-0, 12 KOs) against ShoBox returnee Otar Eranosyan (10-0, 6 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight bout. In the telecast opener, knockout artist Edwin De Los Santos (13-0, 12 KOs) battles William Foster III (12-0, 8 KOs) in an eight-round super featherweight fight. All six fighters have deep amateur pedigrees, highlighting their commitment to the sport.

There will be a new face on the ShoBox telecast as veteran combat sports reporter Brian Campbell will join former world champion Raul Marquez ringside as an expert analyst, while International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry Tompkins calls the blow-by-blow action. Fellow Hall of Famer Steve Farhood will remain a part of the broadcast team remotely.

The three-fight telecast is promoted by Sampson Boxing.

“We are excited to kick off our 21st consecutive year in action with a prototypical ShoBox card that features six undefeated fighters facing the most difficult challenges of their young careers,” said Gordon Hall, executive producer for ShoBox: The New Generation. “We’re also excited to be adding the versatile combat sports reporter Brian Campbell to one of the best broadcast teams in boxing. Brian has shined in various roles during SHOWTIME assignments over the past few years and we’re looking forward to adding him to the team.”

Here is more on each of the three bouts:

Nunez vs. Arrieta – 10-Round Lightweight Main Event Bout

A decorated amateur in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata’s Luis “The Twist” Nunez started boxing at age eight and went on to win a number of national championships as a member of the Dominican national team, including gold in the 2016 Youth Championship. A fan-friendly pressure fighter with heavy hands, Nunez turned professional at 18, passing every test put in front of him in his native country. On his 22nd birthday in September, Nunez made his United States debut, upsetting then-undefeated Jayvon Garnett on ShoBox. His unblemished resume also includes a unanimous decision over then 20-3-1 Eliezer Aquino and a fourth-round KO over then once-beaten Giovanni Gutierrez.

“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone, nothing is beyond your reach as long as you are willing to work hard for it,” said Nunez. “Returning to SHOWTIME, for me, is more than a privilege because I feel that every day I am closer to achieving my dream that everyone will be able to witness. I don’t know much about my opponent, but I am sure that on January 7 I will go out through the front door, God willing! Having one more victory in my career is like climbing the ladder to go to the big leagues, which is where I want to be.”

Like Nunez, the Puerto Rican Arrieta was an accomplished amateur in his native country winning several national tournaments. The 27-year-old turned pro in 2015 campaigning mostly in Puerto Rico through the first four years of his career. He made his stateside debut in 2020, scoring a first-round KO in Biloxi, Miss. Going by the ring moniker “The Chosen One”, Arrieta is facing a stiff step-up in competition in his ShoBox debut. His last time out, he won a six-round unanimous decision over Julio Buitrago.

“Training is going very well and I will be ready,” said Arrieta. “I know my opponent is very good and I know it’s going to be a great fight, but I will take the victory home because it is a great opportunity for me to shine and go up to the next level. It’s an opportunity that I will not pass up.”

Castillo vs. Eranosyan – Eight-Round Lightweight Bout

The 26-year-old Castillo scored an emphatic knockout in his U.S. debut in July, blasting out then unbeaten Miguel Contreras in the second round. A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Castillo turned pro in 2017 and has delivered knockout wins in four of his last five fights. Castillo scored a career-best victory in September, earning a unanimous decision over former title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos. Castillo was a highly successful amateur boxer in the Dominican Republic, fighting 460 times.

“I can’t wait to get back in the squared circle doing what I love and what I work very hard on,” said “El Poli” Castillo. “I’m so excited and honored to be put on a platform like ShoBox. We expect a very gutsy, action-packed fight, due to our fighting styles. They make for a great fight recipe. This victory will catapult me into the rankings and force the fans of boxing to start noticing me.”

Ranked No. 7 by the WBA at 130 pounds, Eranosyan was a highly decorated Georgian amateur with 290 total fights who has transitioned seamlessly into the paid ranks. The 28-year-old didn’t turn professional until August 2020 but has already fought 10 times. Now based in Miami Beach, Fla., “Pitbull” owns two notable fourth-round KOs over the 32-4 Juan Carlos Pena. Eranosyan made his ShoBox debut in September, defeating the highly regarded Alejandro Guerrero via unanimous decision in Broken Arrow, Okla. Eranosyan returns to his more familiar Florida, where he has fought each of his other fights professionally. 

“It’s a great honor for me to fight on SHOWTIME and to show the world once again that I am the best in my weight division,” said Eranosyan. “My opponent is a good, undefeated boxer. I’ve seen some of his fights and I am sure we will put on a spectacular fight for the fans. Just like all my other wins in my career, this win will bring me closer to a championship fight, to become an undisputed world champion.”

De Los Santos vs. Foster – Eight-Round Super Featherweight Bout

Edwin De Los Santos began boxing in his native Dominican Republic at the age of 12, and by age 14, he had won his first amateur tournament. He turned pro in 2018 and has competed exclusively in his native country. Packing one-punch power, De Los Santos has scored stoppages in his last seven fights. Among his most impressive performances is a first-round KO over then 8-2 Juan Alberto Garcia Perez and a unanimous decision over then 31-10 Francisco Contreras.  De Los Santos will make his United States debut on January 7.

“Thanks to my preparation and commitment, I promise to give my best and, above all, a great show, so that the public can enjoy it,” said the 22-year-old De Los Santos. “It is an unexplainable feeling being on SHOWTIME for my first time because it is a great opportunity that not many get to experience. My opponent is a good, undefeated boxer. I know it’ll be a war, but I work too hard to not get the victory. You won’t want to miss it.”

William Foster III, a native of New Haven, Conn., started boxing at four years old and started competing at age 10. He had an amateur record of 64-17, advancing to the Junior Olympic Nationals, the Golden Gloves Nationals (where he was a runner-up in 2014), and the PAL Nationals. De Los Santos will be the third undefeated opponent of Foster’s young career. He already owns two wins over then 10-0 fighters in Donald Smith and Sulaiman Segawa. The 28-year-old is the younger brother of 20-0 professional light heavyweight prospect Charles Foster.

“I’m very excited about fighting on SHOWTIME and hopefully this will open the door to more opportunities,” said Foster, nicknamed “The Silent Assassin”. “I know that my opponent is young and ambitious, but he’s making a big mistake by fighting me. He’s making a big mistake if he thinks that I’m like every other fighter.  It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s going to be a very fun night for me. A victory will put me one step closer to my goal as a fighter which is to be the most dangerous fighter who has ever lived.”

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Richardson Hitchins vs. Malik Hawkins on The Morrell-Fox Card

Rising super lightweight contenders Richardson Hitchins and Malik Hawkins will square off in a 10-round showdown that headlines FS1 PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday, December 18 from The Armory in Minneapolis.

The FS1 telecast begins at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT and also features unbeaten Dominican Olympian Hector Luis Garcia dueling Mexico’s Isaac Avelar in an eight-round super featherweight bout and undefeated light heavyweight prospect Suray Mahmutovic taking on fellow unbeaten Pachino Hill.

Following the action on FS1, FOX PBC Fight Night will be headlined by Cuban sensation and unbeaten WBA Super Middleweight Champion David Morrell Jr. defending his title in his adopted hometown when he faces 168-pound contender Alantez Fox. The broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and features exciting rising unbeaten prospect José Valenzuela taking on lightweight contender Austin Dulay in the 10-round co-main event, plus unbeaten super lightweight contender Alberto Puello dueling Minneapolis-native VeShawn Owens in a 10-round attraction.

Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased through The Armory at and through Ticketmaster.

A native of Brooklyn, Hitchins (12-0, 5 KOs) turned pro in 2017 after representing Haiti at the 2016 Olympics and signed on with Mayweather Promotions. The 24-year-old has flashed impressive skills as he’s amassed an unbeaten record in the pro ranks, which is the product of his extensive amateur career. In his last outing, Hitchins scored a career-best victory, as he earned a decision over former world champion Argenis Mendez. Hitchins has increased his competition in winning 10-round decisions in his last three fights.

Another rising prospect in the Mayweather Promotions stable, Hawkins (18-1, 11 KOs) fights out of Baltimore, Maryland and is trained by Gervonta Davis’ coach Calvin Ford. The 25-year-old most recently dropped an October 2020 contest against hard-hitting contender Subriel Matias. Hawkins owns a victory over then unbeaten Darwin Price via fifth-round TKO, which he picked up during a five-win 2019 campaign that also saw him knockout tough contender All Rivera in the first round.

A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, García (13-0, 10 KOs) represented his home country at the 2016 Olympic Games. The 30-year-old owns a decision victory over previously unbeaten Anvar Yunusovin 2019, and most recently stopped Miguel Moreno in four rounds in July. He will take on the 24-year-old Avelar (16-3, 10 KOs), who has fought professionally since 2015. The Aguascalientes, Mexico-native has gone toe-to-toe with unified champion Stephen Fulton Jr. and top contender Eduardo Ramirez.

Mahmutovic (3-0, 3 KOs) began his pro career with three-straight knockout victories before he makes his U.S. debut as a pro on December 18. The 23-year-old was born in San Francisco and now resides in Daly City, California. Mahmutovic picked up all of his knockout victories in 2021, scoring wins in April, May and July. He squares off against Davenport, Iowa’s Hill (6-0, 5 KOs) in a battle of unbeatens. The 24-year-old Hill debuted in February 2020, with three-straight stoppage victories, having most recently defeated Brandt Cooper in August.

The non-televised undercard lineup will see super middleweight contender Anthony Sims Jr. (21-1, 19 KOs) in a six-round bout against Manny Woods (17-14-1, 6 KOs) and lightweight prospect Breeon Carothers (1-0, 1 KO) facing Deljerro Revello (0-2) in a four-round fight. Rounding out the action is unbeaten Mayweather Promotions fighter Adrian Benton in a six-round lightweight duel versus Raymond Chacon. 

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Euro News: Felix Sturm, Cullen vs. Lele Sadjo, Hermans vs. Hammer

Hungarian super middle Istvan Szili (25-2-2) squares off against 42-year old former world champ Felix Sturm (42-5-3) on March 26 of next year at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany.

The fight, promoted by LIB Box Promotion, is billed as an eliminator for the IBO title. Szili already holds the IBO Intercontinental belt. 

Sturm began his comeback last year and went 2-0 fighting for Universum but the two then parted ways without any reason given.

Szili’s career seemed to be fading out after tough losses on the road to Antoine Douglas and Nuhu Lawal he scored an upset win in Australia when he beat Jayde Mitchell, then 20-1.and stopped Mate Kis (17-1-2) in his last fight.


The EBU and Matchroom acted swiftly and Jack Cullen (20-2-1) is now facing unbeaten Frenchman Kevin Lele Sadjo (16-0) on December 18 in Manchester for the vacant super middleweight title.

Lele Sadjo was already in training for a fight for the EU crown against Gustave Tamba.(16-1).

The winner of Lele Sadjo and Cullen will inherit the injured Emre Cukur (18-1) as mandatory challenger..


Female super middleweights Femke Hermans and Christina Hammer, both former world champs, are co-challengers for the vacant EBU title. Deadline for agreements or purse offers is January 4.

Hammer went back to the amateurs during the summer in a vain attempt to reach the Olympics but failed and then returned to the pros where she is now signed up by Wasserman Sports.


The Ukrainian Hulk, heavyweight Igor Shevadzuskiy (8-0) makes his debut for EC Boxing December 18 in Brovary, Ukraine. The Hulk is in against tough UK-based Pole Kamil Sokolowski (11-23-2).


Clarification: The five German judges that scored the fight between Dominic Boesel and Robin Krasniqi as a win for Krasniqi all have a past with the GBA, the German Boxing Association. 

The officials that scored Boesel as a winner October 9 are all with the BDB, Bund Deutscher Berufsboxer. The BDB also sanctioned the show (and has sanctioned all SES shows over the years).

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Kosei Tanaka Bounces Back With Split-Nod Win Over Sho Ishida

Kosei Tanaka rebounded from the first loss of his career to defeat Sho Ishida by split-decision Saturday night at the International Conference Hall in his hometown of Nagoya, Japan.

One judge scored the bout 96-94 for Ishida while the other two judges scored the bout 96-94 and 96-95 for Tanaka, who improves to 16-1, 9 knockouts.

Tanaka, who had won world title belts at 105, 108, and 112 pounds, challenged WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka on December 31 of last year in an attempt to win a world title in a fourth weight class. He was stopped by Ioka in round 8.

Ishida has fought between 115 and 118 pounds throughout much of his career. In his eighth pro fight, he challenged then-WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Khalid Yafai, losing by unanimous decision.

Utilizing a four-inch height advantage, along with a long reach, Ishida won the first two rounds, connecting repeatedly with jabs to the face of Tanaka. By the middle rounds, Tanaka began to swing momentum his way by getting on the inside of Ishida’s guard and connecting vicious punches to the body. 

As the fight progressed into the later rounds, Tanaka’s punch output increased. He was able to utilize good head movement and was effective by countering Ishida’s offense. 

Ishida was game, but his punch output dropped over the last three rounds. Even though he was successful early on, Tanaka did well in the pocket, varying his offense and never allowing Ishida to land more than a steady stream of jabs to the face.

The win by Tanaka puts him back in world title contention. It would be interesting to see if he needs another fight similar to the Ishida one or would be willing to fight in a world title elimination bout.

Ishida, who resides in Osaka, Japan, drops to 29-3, 15 KOs. He has lost two of his last three bouts.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing

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