Just a month after becoming Japan’s first undisputed champion, Naoya Inoue is chasing for another history in boxing. The 29-year old pound-for-pound superstar has confirmed that he will be moving up to the 122-pound division in a bid to become a four-weight world champion and the first man to become an undisputed boxing champion in two weight class.
“Even moving up to super-bantamweight, I still want to aim to become the undisputed champion,”Inoue revealed during a press conference in Japan last January 13th
Inoue will be vacating his WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF world bantamweight titles after four years and eight months in the 118-pound division. He has scored victories against the bantamweight champions such as Jamie McDonnell of United Kingdom (TKO1) , Juan Carlos Payano of Dominican Republic(KO1), Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico(KO2), Nonito Donaire of the Philippines (UD and TKO2) and Paul Butler of United Kingdom(KO11).
Inoue has a lot of power, as is evident by his 21 knockouts in his 24 fights starting from his campaign in the light flyweight division. The question now is whether he can carry his devastating knockout punch to beat the top talents in the 122-pound division.
So far, there are only two world champions in the super bantamweight division: Stephen Fulton (21-0, 8 knockouts) of the United States is the reigning WBC and WBO champion while Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0-8 knockouts) of Uzbekistan is the WBA and IBF titleholder.
The 28-year old Fulton has a slick boxing style and he has the technical skills that could give problems to the Japanese monster. He could use this “sweet science” to wear down and outpoint Inoue. But Fulton may not have the punching power that would keep the Japanese from pressing forward.
An Inoue vs Fulton matchup is unlikely to happen soon as ESPN’s Dan Rafael has reported that Fulton will have a rematch with Brandon Figueroa this February 25th for the WBC Interim Featherweight championship. Boxing fans are confused since another EPSN reporter Salvador Rodriguez has posted on his Instagram account that a fight between Brandon Figueroa and Mark Magsayo is in the works for a boxing event on March 4th.
If Fulton will remain as a super bantamweight, then a showdown with Inoue will definitely happen as both boxers want the fight. The only obstacle left is their promoters. Inoue is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank while Fulton is under TGB promotions.
The other super bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev will not be available for Inoue since the Uzbek fighter is mandated by the IBF to defend his title against the number one contender Marlon Tapales of the Philippines.
If Inoue could not secure a fight against Fulton or Akhmadaliev for the first half of 2023, there are still top fighters who are willing to trade fists with the Japanese monster.
WBO no. 1 super bantamweight contender Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem (20-0, 12 KOs) has openly expressed his desire to be the first man to hand Naoya Inoue his first loss. While the 32-year old Aleem acknowledges Inoue as a “true champion”, the American believes that he has the speed and power to beat the Japanese monster. Aleem’s last fight was a dominant decision win against the world-rated Mike Plania of the Philippines on September 4th, 2022.
WBC number one Luis Nery(33-1 25 knockouts) is also a potential opponent for Inoue. Nery is a two-division champion and he has scored two stoppage wins against Inoue’s countryman Shinsuke Yamanaka.
Former three-division champion John Riel “Quadro Alas” Casimero (32-4 22 knockouts) has been seeking for a fight with Inoue in the last two years. Casimero is listed as the WBC number eight in the 122 lbs. and he won his super bantamweight debut against Ryo Akaho on December 3rd, 2022 at the Paradise City in South Korea. The Filipino is just one call away for a showdown with the monster.
Becoming an undisputed champion in two weight divisions will not be easy for Naoya Inoue. But he is willing to fight anyone who could be a hindrance to his goal of writing a new chapter in boxing history. For now, boxing fans will have to be satisfied with watching UFC 283 or Invicta FC 51, as matches for Inoue are unlikely to happen for a while to come.
Main image credits: Getty Images