Naoya Inoue Vacates Undisputed Title and Officially Moves to Super Bantamweight
Naoya “Monster” Inoue’s (24-0, 21 KOs) days of fighting at bantamweight are officially over. At a press conference in his native Japan, the 29-year-old relinquished the undisputed bantamweight titles and announced he’s officially moving up to the super bantamweight division.
A superstar in the lower-weight divisions, Inoue is coming off an easy eleventh-round win over Paul Butler in December 2022 to win the undisputed titles at 118. On social media, Inoue made the following announcement:
It was no secret among boxing enthusiasts that the three-division champion was eventually moving up in weight. At the end of 2021, he announced that 2022 would be his last year at 118. But he wanted to collect all the belts in the division before leaving. It was a goal that Monster ended up accomplishing.
INOUE’S OPTIONS AT JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHT
At 122, many fans would love to see Inoue face reigning unified super bantamweight champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs). Cool Boy Steph will rematch with Brandon Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs) at 126 for the WBC Interim featherweight title on February 25. Should Fulton win, he could decide to stay at featherweight and vacate the belts at 122.
Another fighter Inoue could be interested in facing is the other unified champion in the division, Murodjon “MJ” Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KOs). Next up for MJ is a defense against mandatory IBF challenger Marlon Tapales (36-3, 19 KOs).
Possible fights against Fulton and Akhmadaliev are unlikely to happen until late 2023. So, it would not be surprising if Inoue’s super bantamweight debut is against Ra’eese Aleem (20-0, 12 KOs), currently ranked number one by the WBO at 122. A win over Aleem would make Inoue the WBO mandatory challenger.
Whatever direction the Inoue goes at 122, boxing fans will be on alert to see what he does. But as it stands right now, the Monster is putting the super bantamweight division on notice that he intends to take over.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.