Japan’s Naoya Inoue announced his promotion to boxing’s super-bantamweight division on Friday and set his sights on becoming undisputed world champion again, one month after claiming all bantamweight belts.
The undefeated Inoue, nicknamed “The Monster,” became the first bantamweight world champion in half a century when he beat England’s Paul Butler in December to add the WBO title to his WBC, WBA and IBF belts.
He said he has now decided to vacate the titles and take on a new challenge in the super-bantamweight division, with contracts for his next fight.
The 29-year-old Inoue, who has a 24-0 record with 21 fights, said he’s moving up a weight class because “there’s nothing left to do and I don’t want to fight anybody” in the bantamweight division.
“It will be a challenge against an opponent who is bigger than me but this is a real uphill battle,” said Inoue, who previously held the world titles at light-flyweight and super-flyweight.
“I’m really excited.”
Inoue knocked out Butler in Tokyo in the 11th round to become the first world heavyweight champion since Panama’s Enrique Pinder in 1972.
He also became the ninth straight world champion out of a four-time belt that began in 2004, and the first in the bantamweight division.
No one has ever achieved the feat in more than one weight class, but Inoue believes he can write a new chapter in boxing history.
“Even moving up to super-bantamweight, I still want to become the definitive champion,” he said.
“To be public in two weight classes would be a world first and a fantastic achievement, and that’s what I want to focus on.”
– ‘The final chapter’ –
Inoue and his team would not be drawn on the identity of their next potential opponent, but said they would like to take on a top fighter immediately.
Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev is the current WBA and IBF world super-bantamweight champion, while American Stephen Fulton holds the WBC and WBO belts.
Inoue said “there’s a lot of talent in the super-bantampon division” and he wanted his season to reach the top.
“It took me four years and eight months to go through the bantamweight division, and I think it will probably take the same amount of time at super-bantamweight,” said Inoue, who said he intends to retire at 35.
“I think it’s fair to say that super-bantamweight will be the last chapter for me.”
Inoue’s younger brother Takuma is also a professional boxer who has held the WBC interim world bantamweight title for a long time.
The elder Inoue said he would like to see his brother for one of the former’s belts once vacant.
“It has always been a dream for us to be champions of both worlds,” he said.
“I’m putting my titles down and moving up to super-bantamweight, and I think the goal is to become a reality in the near future.”