Naoya Inoue has already hit the ground running in pursuit of making more history.
The four-division and reigning unified WBC/WBO junior featherweight titlist has already begun preparation for his forthcoming undisputed championship versus IBF/WBA titleholder Marlon Tapales. A date has yet to be announced though the event is targeted to take place mid-to-late December in Japan.
“One week of intense training has ended,” Inoue stated in a post, accompanied by a photo sporting a chiseled physique alongside his team members. “I had a good training session and am ready to switch on for December.”
Yokohama’s Inoue (25-0, 22KOs) made history for Japan in back-to-back fights. He became the nation’s first-ever undisputed champion in the three- or four-belt era—and the first Asian to do as well—after his eleventh-round knockout of England’s Paul Butler to fully unify the bantamweight division last December at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
The same venue saw Inoue became Japan’s first boxer to earn unified title status at two or more weights just seven months later. He did so in destructive fashion after a one-sided, eighth-round knockout of unbeaten WBC/WBO 122-pound titlist Stephen Fulton on July 25, and became Japan’s second male boxer to win at least one title at four weights in the process.
It was already planned going into the fight that his next one would come versus the Philippines’ Tapales (37-3, 19KOs), who won the WBA/IBF belts in an April 8 split decision victory over unbeaten Murodjon Akhmadaliev. Both sides have operated throughout as if the fight will take place in December, even if the confirmed date remains unavailable for public consumption.
A win by Inoue will leave him as just the second male and third overall boxer in the world to fully unify all four major titles (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO) at two more weights.
Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (39-0, 30KOs) became the first male to do so with his ninth-round stoppage of Errol Spence to become undisputed welterweight champion six years after having done the same at junior welterweight. Claressa Shields fully unified the junior middleweight division by March 2021 and twice at middleweight, the latter full unification completed in her points win over Savannah Marshall last October 15 in London.
Inoue has a shot to become two-division undisputed in a span of just one year.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox