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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue Chases History in Title Unification Fight

Super bantamweight Naoya Inoue takes on Marlon Tapales and aims to become the first undisputed world champ in two weight classes in back-to-back years.



Naoya Inoue
Boxers Marlon Tapales (left) and Naoya Inoue are seen in this composite photo. Tapales, the WBA and IBF super bantamweight champion, will face WBC and WBO champ Inoue on December 26, 2023, at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue Chases History in Title Unification Fight

When he steps into the ring at Ariake Arena on Tuesday night, December, 26, Naoya Inoue will attempt to accomplish something no professional boxer has ever done before. 

His quest? To become an undisputed world champion in two weight classes in consecutive years (actually, a 13-month period) in the four-belt era (since 2004).

Inoue (25-0, 22 knockouts) puts his WBC and WBO super bantamweight title belts on the line against Filipino champion Marlon Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs), who owns the IBF and WBA titles.

Known to his legions of fans as "Monster," Inoue relinquished his four bantamweight title belts in early 2023, a few weeks after unifying the division by dismantling Paul Butler with a flurry of punches in the 11th round on December 13, 2022. 

Without a doubt, Inoue was ready for new challenges in a heavier weight class. 

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue is crowned WBC and WBO super bantamweight world champion on July 25 in Tokyo. (ⒸSANKEI)

In an interview with NHK's "Backstories" feature series in January, Inoue shared some insights about his thoughts on this phase of his legendary boxing career.


"I think it's important to stay motivated," Inoue told NHK. "If you don't motivate yourself, you won't be able to improve. That's why it's important to fight against strong opponents and take on new challenges."

He's had no trouble staying motivated in the months that followed.

In his first fight as a super bantamweight, Inoue dethroned American Stephen Fulton, the WBC and WBO champ, on July 25 at Ariake Arena, winning via an eighth-round technical knockout.

That set the stage for a high-profile encounter with Tapales, who was inside the Tokyo venue in July when Fulton lost his title belts.

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue trains on December 15 in Yokohama. (KYODO)

Naoya Inoue Reflects on His Preparations for Tapales

Since his impressive win over Fulton five months ago, Inoue has dedicated himself to getting ready for one more fight to close out the year.

Speaking to reporters on December 15 at Yokohama's Ohashi Boxing Gym, the 30-year-old fighter said he's pleased with pre-fight preparations.

"I'm more motivated than before, and that has exceeded my expectations," Inoue was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

He went on: "I've been training on the premise that I'll be facing a skilled all-around boxer, [and] I've gotten myself into better condition than I was for the Fulton bout."


Not wanting to suffer the first defeat of his career the day after Christmas, Inoue said he's well aware of Tapales' mindset heading into their title unification bout.

"Tapales is looking to pull off an upset, so I'll be careful," Inoue said, according to Kyodo News.

In a recent workout attended by the media, Inoue gave some interesting details about his approach to training in the run-up to his fight against Tapales.

"For this fight, I am dealing with a different training regimen, making adjustments, and building up an image in my mind of myself as a boxer who is dexterous and can do anything," Inoue said, according to The Philippine Star.

Continue reading the full story, which includes news items on baseball stars Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani and more, on SportsLook.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven


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