Undisputed super bantamweight champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 26-0 (23) has reflected on his stunning run that has seen him become WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine champion is two separate weight classes in less than 13 months.
In December last year the 30-year-old Japanese phenom dethroned Paul Butler 36-3 (17) by 11th round knockout to be crowned undisputed champ at bantamweight before moving up to the 122-pound weight class in July to wrest the WBC and WBO titles from Stephen Fulton 21-1 (8) by eighth-round knockout.
On Boxing Day he annexed the WBA and IBF titles from 31-year-old Filipino southpaw Marlon ‘Nightmare’ Tapales 37-4 (19), dropping him in the fourth round before finishing him off in the 10th. At the time of the stoppage Inoue was leading 88-82, 90-80 and 89-81 on the judges’ scorecards.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment and am happy that I was able to collect four belts in two fights, including today and in July after moving up the weight class,” Inoue said at the post-fight press conference.
“I want to spend my time savouring the joy and working hard for the next match.”
Tapales proved to be a tough, skilled and well conditioned athletes. These attributes shone through in the middle rounds when he rebounded from the fourth-round knockdown to rally in the fifth, sixth and seventh stanzas.
“He was very good defensively,” Inoue said. “He set up with his centre of gravity at his back and I had a hard time getting clean hits.”
A perfect right cross from Inoue landed right on the button in the 10th round, sending Tapales to the canvas. Try is he might, Tapales could not beat referee Celestino Ruiz’s 10-count.
“When Tapales collapsed in the 10th round, I thought he had accumulated this much damage. Tapales didn’t show any painful expressions, so I couldn’t read that much into it,” Inoue said.
Tapales praised Inoue for his victory, saying it was his speed as much as his power that troubled him.
“I did not win, but I gave it all,” said Tapales. “Inoue is skillful and fast. He is too quick and I cannot catch him.
“I did my best and gave it all in my training and preparation, but I still lost.
“Inoue’s a powerful puncher, but it was his speed that made the difference. It affected my timing.”
Promoter Hideyuki Ohashi added: “First of all, we won all four group championships in two weight divisions by KO. Today, winning by decision and winning by KO are completely different.
“I once again realised how amazing it was that we were able to have a match like that in this situation. There is a feeling of easy victory.
“He was not at all careless and was exactly what he had predicted. Today is Takuma’s birthday. I think it was a great present. I think he is a big brother who cares about his younger brother.”
Inoue said he planned to stay at 122-pounds for the foreseeable future rather than jumping up to featherweight in a bid to become a five-weight world champion, which was what many fans and pundits were expecting to happen.
There are still some intriguing fights to be made at super bantamweight against leading contenders Luis Nery 35-1 (27), Sam Goodman 17-0 (7) and Murodjon Akhmadaliev 12-1 (9).
“It was a similar view to the one everyone showed me a year ago. It was moving to see the atmosphere at the venue and I would like to express my gratitude,” said Inoue, who is expected to return to the ring in May.
“I will also think about what to do with the four belts in the future. No matter what happens with the belts, I want to show another passionate match.”