MANILA, Philippines — Top Rank CEO Bob Arum believes a rematch between bantamweight champions Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire could take place in April in Japan.
Arum and the other parties, however, would first have to oppose the strict travel restrictions the Japanese government has put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I think it’s really close,” Arum said in an interview with the 3 Knockdown Rule. “But from what we understand, April, we will be safe.”
Japan closed its borders at the end of 2021 after the Omicron variant of COVID-19 caused massive spikes in the number of infections in the country. This also ends the super flyweight unification bout of Jerwin Ancajas and Kazuto Ioka on New Years Eve.
From cases constantly hovering in the low hundreds, Japan saw a massive surge in early 2022, peaking on Feb. 8 when the country recorded 101,084 new cases.
Arum said the ball is in the court of the Japanese government if a fight between Inoue, the holder of the IBF, WBA and Ring Magazine titles, and WBC champion Donaire happens in their country.
He added that Japanese promoters Hideyuki Ohashi and Akihiko Honda won’t have to do much work to get the fight approved.
“It all depends not on Donaire, or Inoue, or Ohashi and Honda, but on the Japanese government lifting restrictions on events, etc.,” Arum said.
Inoue defeated Donaire via unanimous decision in an Instant Classic on November 19, with the match earning Fight of the Year honors.
Despite his wasted effort, Donaire was praised for his performance as he took on the dangerous Inoue.
Donaire, following his loss to Inoue, has since won back-to-back matches by knocking out Nordine Oubaali in the fourth round of their May 2021 fight to win the WBC title.
The 39-year-old then knocked out fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo in the same round to retain the belt.
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