Inoue taps Villanueva as sparring partner

JAPANESE superstar Naoya Inoue taps the services of former world title challenger Arthur Villanueva as one of his main sparring partners for his upcoming unification bout with Paul Butler in December.

The 33-year-old Villanueva will join Inoue’s camp in Japan on Oct. 5 and will be training with the No. 2 pound-for-pound king for a month.

“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to experience this. I also thank Team Inoue for their trust in me that I’ll be able to help them out in their upcoming fight. I know I will learn a lot from this, as Inoue’s sparring partner for a month. I also have huge thanks to coach Edito (Villamor), to my team, Team Highland Boxing and Pinoy Boxing Prodigy for giving me this opportunity in Japan,” Villanueva told SunStar Cebu.

Inoue and Butler have already agreed to terms to face each other in a world title unification bout on Dec. 13 in Japan, with the winner becoming undisputed champion.

Inoue currently holds the International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight belts, while Butler is the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight champion.

Inoue is coming off an impressive second-round technical knockout of Filipino superstar Nonito Donaire Jr. in their unification fight last June 7 in Japan.

Butler, on the other hand, successfully defended his interim WBO bantamweight strap with a unanimous decision win over former ALA Boy Jonas Sultan on April 22 in England. He was elevated to regular WBO bantamweight champion the following month after Johnriel Casimero was stripped of his belt.

Inoue has a history of picking Pinoy boxers as sparring partners. Some of the sparring partners that he has had in the past are KJ Cataraja, Pete Apolinar, Albert Pagara, Jeo Santisima, Geniesis Servania, Kenny Demecillo, Jason Canoy and Niel John Tabanao.

Villanueva is looking to gain experience and knowledge from a very talented fighter in Inoue in preparation also for a possible fight in Japan in December.