By: Sean Crose
They call him “The Monster” for a reason, as he’s perhaps the best pound for pound fighter in the world. At 29 years of age, Naoya Inoue has earned world titles in three weight divisions without suffering a single defeat. Most recently, the 24-0 fighter became the undisputed bantamweight champion of the world by stopping a way over his head Paul Butler back in December. Now Inoue has announced that he’s moving up to the super bantamweight division, subsequently leaving his undisputed bantamweight championship behind. That means he’ll be vacating the IBF, WBC, WBO and WBA bantamweight titles.
“The real battle starts from here,” said Inoue, via Kyoto, at a Friday press conference in his native Japan “I’m very excited.” Naoya appeared to be looking at his decision to move up to super bantamweight realistically, indicating that enormous success in the division won’t come overnight. “I’m confident that I can take on top-level super bantam boxers, even at present,” he claimed, “but it will take a while to make myself really unbeatable.” Although Naoya has polished off all but three of his opponents within the distance, a fighter’s power isn’t always going to carry over to higher weight divisions.
With that being said, Inoue made it clear that super bantamweight may be the final destination in his Hall of Fame worthy journey. Still, Inoue’s goal in his new division is to once again become an undisputed champion. Noting that he’s in no rush, the man indicated that being a two division undisputed titlist would put him into the upper echelon of boxing notables. Inoue has not yet remarked on who his first super bantamweight opponent will be, though it appears unlikely that he will jump up and challenge one of the division’s world champions right away.
As matters currently stand, Inoue would have to get through Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Stephen Fulton if he were to become undisputed at this new weight class. Akhmadaliev holds the WBA and IBF titles while Fulton is in possession of the WBC and WBO straps. Again, however, Inoue is clear that he’s in no rush and things happen quickly in boxing. If and when he gets a chance to fight for a world title at super bantamweight, Inoue may well be facing someone other than the current titlists. No matter who he faces in the future, however, there’s no doubt Inoue will be bringing his A-game, which is always an extremely dangerous thing.
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