Naoya Inoue’s continued quest for bantamweight supremacy will now include a Hot and Spicy mandatory title defense.
The undefeated three-division and reigning unified 118-pound titlist will next face Philippines’ Michael ‘Hot and Spicy’ Dasmarinas, the longtime IBF mandatory challenger in waiting. A scheduled purse bid hearing to determine promotional rights was canceled after the two sides reached an agreement, IBF representatives informed BoxingScene.com.
A firm fight date has yet to be established for the bout, which will take place in Inoue’s native Japan. Travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic serve as the main roadblock in officially scheduling the contest, which will mark Inoue’s third defense of the IBF belt and second as a unified titlist.
Philippines is currently on Japan’s list of areas subjected to entry ban due to the current global rise in COVID cases, though exceptional circumstances are honored—a luxury normally afforded to boxers entering world title fights.
Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20KOs) has served the IBF mandatory bantamweight title challenger since a 12-round win over countryman Kenny Demecillo in their March 2019 title eliminator in Pasay City, Philippines. The belt was tied up in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament at the time, held by Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez who conceded the crown in a 2nd round knockout at the hands of Inoue in May 2019.
Inoue (20-0, 17KOs) went on to win the tournament, securing top honors after outpointing Nonito Donaire in their Nov. 2019 finale to unify the IBF and WBA titles. The bout was recognized by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the 2019 Fight of the Year, though one where Inoue had a mandatory title defense waiting on the other side.
An exemption was granted to allow Dasmarinas’ countryman, WBO titlist John Riel Casimero to enter a three-belt unification clash with Inoue. Dasmarinas and Casimero both fight under eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions banner, easing the process to permit the April 2020 unification bout. The initial wave of the ongoing global health crisis shut down those plans, however, with the fight never revisited.
Dasmarinas has not fought since a 5th round stoppage of journeyman Artid Bamrungauea in Oct. 2019.
Inoue has since defended his titles in a voluntary defense, stopping Australia’s Jason Moloney in the closing seconds of the 7th round in their ESPN headliner last Halloween at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The bout marked Inoue’s debut under the Top Rank banner as well as his first career fight in Vegas.
The upcoming mandatory defense versus Dasmarinas will mark a triumphant return to Japan for Yokohama’s Inoue, whose last fight in country was his aforementioned win over Donaire. All but three career fights for Inoue have taken place at home.
Dasmarinas has fought just once before in Japan, an eight-round points win over Hayato Kimura in July 2014. The 28-year old southpaw is riding a 13-fight unbeaten streak.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox