Naoya Inoue returns to action Tuesday in Japan, facing Marlon Tapales with all four major world titles at 122 lbs at stake.
The fight, which will stream live on ESPN+ in the States, will see Inoue try to go undisputed in a second weight division, having previously achieved that honor a year ago as a bantamweight.
Will “The Monster” make it an undisputed double in what is rapidly becoming a Hall of Fame-bound career?
Scott Christ (107-43)
We’re all always excited to see Inoue return, he’s absolute must-watch, appointment TV, but in terms of trying to “preview” this or “break it down,” it’s just very simple.
We have arguably the best boxer on the planet against a pretty good opponent who was stopped by Ryosuke Iwasa not too long ago. Tapales, like everyone, will give this his best shot. Tapales, like the vast majority, is going to get decimated for his effort. Inoue TKO-5
Wil Esco (115-35)
Inoue has already demonstrated that he’s more than just a great fighter; he’s a truly special one. There’s quite the gulf between him and Tapales, and I expect that to be demonstrated as briefly as this pick. Inoue TKO-4
John Hansen (107-43)
I respect Tapales for taking on the challenge, but Inoue is a marvel, and I’m obviously picking him to win this fight. Everyone else on the masthead here, and anywhere else in the boxing universe, should have him winning this fight.
Inoue has no leaks. He fights the closest to flawless and error-free of anyone at the top levels in any weight class, and he has violent power on top of that. Barring an injury or some radical lapse in dedication, the only way I can see Inoue losing a fight is by aging, or moving up too far in weight. He’s a wonder, and I’m delighted for every opportunity we get to watch him demonstrate his mastery of the sport. Inoue KO-7
Patrick Stumberg (112-38)
Inoue is the best boxer on Planet Earth. I firmly believe that as of right now, he could run the table on not just the super bantamweight elite but the featherweight elite as well. This is a potential three-weight undisputed champion; there’s fifty feet of empty air between your average titlist and “The Monster.”
With all due respect to Marlon Tapales, he’s the “average titlist” in this scenario. He’s a decent boxer and hits harder than that less than 50 percent knockout rate would suggest, but he got dog-walked by Ryosuke Iwasa five fights back and earned this opportunity by scraping out a win over the most lethargic Murodjon Akhmadaliev we’ve ever seen.
Besides being the first competent southpaw Inoue has faced since Juan Carlos Payano in 2018, there’s nothing in his arsenal that I can even imagine troubling Inoue. After seeing his fine countryman Gojira set the stage, Inoue likewise dazzles the audience with his own feat of historic destruction. Inoue TKO-5