Naoya Inoue has confirmed he will be vacating his four bantamweight world titles and moving up to super bantam to attempt to become a four division world champion.
The pound for pound star became the first undisputed champion at 118lb in 50 years when he stopped WBO belt holder Paul Butler in the 11th round of their fight last month.
Inoue was forced to be patient against the Brit, who adopted a safety first gameplan and offered little in the way of offence. He got there, thought, in the eleventh round. The stoppage further cemented his status as an all time great in the making.
I’m a world champion, but he’s a great. He’s the Canelo of the bantamweights. He’s very good at what he does. It’s difficult when you’ve got a pound-for-pound great who will go down as one of the all-time greats, in my opinion.”
It had been heavily expected that ‘The Monster’ would make the move up to 1122lbs following the win over Butler, with showdowns with the division’s champions Stephen Fulton and Murjdon Akhmadaliev being speculated upon by fans.
The WBO granted Inoue “super champion” status, meaning he will automatically become mandatory challenger for Fulton’s WBO title.
However, a fight with the American is unlikely to be next, as it was this week announced he would be rematching Brandon Figueroa for the WBC interim title up at featherweight on February 25th.
What’s more, Inoue is promoted by Top Rank, who don’t have either of the champions at super bantamweight in their stable. Fulton is promoted by PBC, whilst Akhmadaliev is affiliated with Matchroom.
Inoue’s commercial status in his native Japan and his ability to grant either belt holder a career high pay should hopefully prove enough to overcome promotional and broadcasting barriers, as he sets off in pursuit of further legacy defining challenges.