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  • Brandon Harley


After the holidays, Tokyo's Ariake Arena will be packed December 26, because World Featherweight Champions Naoya Inoue & Marlon Tapales collide LIVE and Exclusively on ESPN+. Having already won four divisional world titles, Inoue is seeking to earn four-belt undisputed status in a second division.

Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) is 20-0 with 18 knockouts in world title fights since defeating Adrian Hernandez in 2014 for the WBC light flyweight crown. As a junior bantamweight world champion, he knocked out then-WBO junior bantamweight world champion Omar Narvaez and defended the title seven times. At bantamweight, Inoue became the division’s first undisputed champion in the four-belt era. He collected each title against Emmanuel Rodriguez, Nonito Donaire twice and Paul Butler over a three-year span. Inoue plans to become the first undisputed four-belt champion at 122 pounds after defeating WBC/WBO junior featherweight world champion Stephen Fulton in July. Nicknamed "The Monster", Inoue is known for his timing, speed, punching power, and body-punching ability, having a knockout ratio of 92%. 

When asked Top Rank chairman Bob Arum about the upcoming bout he said "The sensation

al Naoya Inoue astounds with every performance. We are witnessing an all-time great fighter in the prime of his career. He has a very difficult task onDecember 26 against a tough, powerful Filipino champion in Marlon Tapales. However, I am confident ‘The Monster’ will pass this test with flying colors."

Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs) is a 40-fight veteran. He had minor setbacks early in his career but eventually he figured it out and won a few big fights at bantamweight. He then decided to move up to junior featherweight and is 4-0 with 3 KOs since losing to Ryosuke Iwasa in December 2019. Tapales returns following his biggest win to date, April’s upset split decision against Murodjon Akhmadaliev to capture the WBA and IBF titles. This is another big fight we have this year that I believe will not disappoint.

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