Boxing Day bonus: Fan favourite Naoya Inoue faces Marlon Tapales

BOXING DAY will provide some boxing action when Naoya Inoue bids to win all four belts in a second weight class.

The Japanese phenom, who has also won world honours at light-flyweight and super-flyweight, faces Filipino Marlon Tapales at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo with the winner recognised as the undisputed super-bantamweight champion.

Inoue’s last two fights have taken place at the same venue. In December 2022 a cautious Paul Butler attempted to frustrate the ‘Monster’ only to succumb in the 11th round giving Inoue the fourth and final piece of his quest to win everything at bantamweight.

Then this past summer a confident Stephen Fulton was tipped to give Inoue his toughest test to date. The American was a seasoned super-bantamweight while his opponent was debuting at the weight. What transpired was a stunning virtuoso performance from Inoue, 25-0 (22), whose speed, reflexes and power proved too much for the Philadelphian. In the eighth frame the fight was over and Inoue walked away with the IBF and WBA belts. It was one of the finest displays by Inoue in his 11-year career. The manner of the win placed him top of the pound-for-pound pile but Terence Crawford’s violent wizardry against Errol Spence in Las Vegas four days later has left the debate open as to who is the best fighter in the world.

On December 26 Inoue will be the long odds-on favourite to take the WBC and WBO belts from Tapales, 37-3 (19). The ‘Nightmare’ stood face-to-face with Inoue in the ring shortly after witnessing from ringside his next opponent’s brilliance against Fulton.

“I want to fight Naoya Inoue because I want to prove myself that, you know, I’m a champion,” he told the pro-Inoue crowd inside the Ariake Arena on July 25.

“Let’s do this”, Inoue responded.

One crumb of comfort for fans of Tapales will be his winning record against Japanese fighters. Currently it stands at four wins and one loss (to Ryosuke Iwasa in December 2019). However, getting the better of Hayato Kimura, Shohei Omoro on two occasions and Hiroaki Teshigawara will not strike fear into supporters of Inoue.

In an uninspiring contest last time out Tapales upset the odds defeating Murodjon Akhmadaliev by split decision ruining the Uzbek’s own plans of challenging the winner of Inoue and Fulton. Tapales can now look forward to a dream opportunity and pay day which could in fact become his own worst nightmare.

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