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Naoya Inoue Puts the Super Bantamweight Division on High Alert

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  • Naoya Inoue Puts the Super Bantamweight Division on High Alert

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    By J.J. Alvarez

    With Japanese fighter Naoya Inoue’s decision to leave the bantamweight division along with the four titles that made him the undisputed king of 118 pounds, there will be a merciless battle between the ranking leaders of that category to conquer his titles, not to mention the concern now faced by those at 122 pounds.

    The fight amongst the bantamweight division will be centered around Australian Jason Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs), Filipinos Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs) and Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs), as well as Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodríguez (21-2, 13 KOs) and Nicaraguan Melvin López (29-1, 19 KOs), all of whom appear at the top of the rankings of the most recognized organizations worldwide: the WBC, WBA, IBF and the WBO.

    Weeks ago, the WBC ordered the fight between veteran and future Hall of Famer Donaire against Moloney for an interim title (it would now be for the "regular" title). However, the talks were stalled due to disagreements between their two promoters Richard Schaefer (Probellum) and Bob Arum (Top Rank).

    These two maintain a long feud which goes back more than a decade and thus creates obstacles in the face of mandatory challenges or other matchups that require the support of both entities and consequently prevents the expected confrontations between the fighters under their promotional tutelage.

    If the WBC upholds its decision, the duel between Donaire and Moloney will surely go to a public auction, in which the organization will decide who will acquire the promotional rights to the fight.

    Also fighting for position within that group is Takuma Inoue (17-1, 4 KOs), the younger brother of the "Monster" Inoue who is ranked second in the WBA, which currently has the top spot vacant in the 118-pound division.

    Naoya Inoue's jump to the 122-pound division will undoubtedly put the top super bantamweight fighters on high alert. Two undefeated boxers, American Stephen Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) and Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KOs), currently lead the pack. Fulton, 28, from Philadelphia, holds the WBC and WBO belts, while the southpaw Akhmadaliev, of the same age and a California resident, holds the WBA and IBF belts.


    "I would like to inform you that I will return the belts of the four [sanctioning bodies]," Inoue revealed to the assembled media at a Yokohama hotel conference room. “Each belt is a memorable one for me.”

    Inoue's decision comes a month after becoming the first Japanese (and Asian) undisputed champion since the four most prestigious organizations came into international existence.

    The historic event occurred when Inoue anesthetized British Paul Butler (34-3, 15 KOs) in the eleventh round on December 13th at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo. Inoue was defending his WBC, WBA and IBF belts, and the Englishman that of the WBO.

    After the fight, Inoue expressed that he had completed his career at 118 pounds and from now on he will look for his next title at 122 pounds, as he has already achieved championship status at light flyweight (108), super flyweight (115) and bantamweight (118).

    “I have decided to compete in the super bantamweight division and challenge fighters who are bigger than me,” stated Inoue. “From here on out, it’s a real thing. I’m really excited about it; I think it could be the final chapter.”

    In addition to champions Fulton and Akhmadaliev, the 122-pound ranking has in the first positions Mexican Luis Nery (WBC), Armenian Azat Hovhannisyan (WBA), Filipino southpaw Marlon Tapales (IBF) and American Ra’eese Aleem (WBO).

    “In 2023, I would like to move up one weight class and challenge the super bantamweight division. It's the perfect situation. There's nothing left to do in this bantamweight division, and there's no opponent I want to fight,” noted Inoue.

    Going forward, there is much speculation about the possible duel between Inoue and Fulton and the WBO even hinted at the possibility of allowing the matchup. Fulton defeated WBO ranked American Daniel Román (29-4-1, 10 KOs) on June 4th in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and if the duel with Inoue takes place it will be an exquisite delicacy for boxing lovers to witness two boxers with proven power and skills collide.

    Will Fulton be the first fighter to defeat Inoue? Among his talents are speed of hand and foot and greater height and reach than that of Inouye, which all could become defining elements against the powerful fists of the Asian, who thus far appears to be a fighter from another galaxy.

    “The challenge of fighting at super bantamweight is not just a problem for me—everyone’s support really helps me,” stated Inoue. “Please continue to support us in 2023.”

    Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

    Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

  • #2
    Well put very well put,

    The move up in weight does not hint at or feel like anything but an honest need to move up in weight naturally. And I have to admit I enjoy watching Inoue fight but just as much enjoy the way he and his people carry themselves inside and outside the ring. That is important too esp in these times of false flash and online tough guys. Be it intentioned or just a natural order of things the Monsters move up in weight creates some interesting bouts for him as he does move up the weight classes. Just trying to say the move up in weight dont smell like a money move or avoidance of some kind be it to not fight someone or to just make more money. Bring it on line them up make it happen until it can not anymore.
    118 will be jumping now too as long as the powers that be just let it be and let it happen. On that his brother -- I like this guy too, he is one of the hardest hitting fighters with only four K.O's that I know of right now. With about one milligram more pop he could have many more K.O. victories in his record. The mix at 118 improves, the match ups and intensity improve at 122lbs. We get a few more names and reputation to get tested in the ring not online. What could go wrong ? A lot -- it is the sport of boxing. Yet it is nice to hear about the move and all that it brings about. Once again it dont feel like anything but an honest move up in weight, and it does a lot for the fight game and fight fans, if the fight game gets out of the way and lets all these fights at 118 and 122 happen in the ring that is.