Saturday, December 02, 2023  |


Naoya Inoue fights Marlon Tapales with Ring junior featherweight belt at stake on Dec. 26

Naoya Inoue shows off his latest world titles, taken from top junior featherweight Stephen Fulton on July 25 in Tokyo. Photo by Naoki Fukuda/Top Rank
Fighters Network

Naoya Inoue is on the verge of becoming an undisputed champion. Again.

Inoue will face Marlon Tapales on Tuesday, December 26, Top Rank officially announced late Tuesday night. The 12-round bout will take place at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan and will stream live on ESPN+ in the United States.

At stake will be Inoue’s WBC and WBO world junior featherweight title belts, and Tapales’ IBF and WBA world title belts.

The vacant Ring magazine championship will also be at stake.

Inoue (25-0, 22 knockouts), who now resides in nearby Yokohama, Japan, became the undisputed champion at 118 pounds less than a year ago, on December 13, knocking out Paul Butler of England.

The 30-year-old moved up in weight, facing unified world junior featherweight titleholder Stephen Fulton on July 25, scoring a knockout win in the eighth round.

Inoue has won world title belts in four different weight divisions, first winning the WBC world junior flyweight title in his sixth pro fight in April 2014, knocking out Adrian Hernandez of Mexico. He would move up two weight classes eight months later, knocking out Omar Narvaez to win the WBO world junior bantamweight title. Inoue would make seven successful title defenses of the WBO title before moving up to 118 pounds, where he faced and defeated the likes of Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire (twice), and Butler.

Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs), who resides in Kapatagan in the Philippines, last fought on April 8, defeating Murodjon Akhmadaliev by split decision to win the IBF and WBA world title belts.

He has won his last four fights since losing to Ryosuke Iwasa in December 2019. Tapales first became a world titleholder in July 2016, knocking out Panya Uthok to become the WBO world bantamweight titleholder.

The 31-year-old is promoted by Shane Shapiro.


Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]