Connect with us


Naoya Inoue-Marlon Tapales: Stats & Stakes

Naoya Inoue-Marlon Tapales: Stats & Stakes

In 1976, the WBC brought back a division that only briefly and without much fanfare flared on the boxing scene in the early 1920s. In the space between bantamweight and featherweight, a class few likely were asking for became one of the most indispensable of the last half century.

Junior featherweight has been a winner.

Classics like Wilfredo Gomez-Carlos Zarate, Gomez-Lupe Pintor, Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera I, the first three bouts in the epic Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez series, and Somsak Sithchatchawal-Mahyar Monshipour made the sport better. Jeff Fenech, Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, and Guillermo Rigondeaux count among their championship ranks. 

For all the history achieved, all the Fights of the Year and hall of fame moments, one thing has never happened.

No one has ever assembled all the major belts around one waist. It didn’t happen when there were two, three, or the now four belts some need assembled to call a fighter undisputed. Barring a draw, that will be resolved Tuesday in Japan (ESPN+, 3 AM EST). 

On one side of the ring, we have an unlikely two-division titlist whose surprising upset of then-undefeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev opened up the biggest opportunity of his career. 

On the other side of the ring, we have arguably the best fighter in the world in any weight class, a four-division titlist who became the first undisputed bantamweight champion in some fifty years, inching closer with every win to toppling Fighting Harada as the greatest Japanese fighter of all time.               

Let’s get into it. 

Stats and Stakes

Naoya Inoue 

Age: 30

Title: WBC Super Bantamweight (2023-Present, 1st Defense); WBO Jr. Featherweight (2023-Present, 1st Defense)

Previous Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2014, 1 Defense); WBO Jr. Bantamweight (2014-18, 7 defenses); Ring Magazine/IBF Bantamweight (2019-23, 6 Defenses); WBA Bantamweight (2019-23, 5 Defenses*); Lineal/TBRB/WBC World Bantamweight (2021-23, 1 Defense); WBO Bantamweight (2022-23)

Height: 5’5   

Weight: 121 ¾ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

Record: 25-0, 22 KO

Press Rankings: #1 at 118 lbs. (TBRB, Ring, ESPN, BoxRec)

Record in Major Title Fights: 18-0, 16 KO (20-0, 18 KO including sub-title fights) 

Last Five Opponents: 139-12-1 (.918)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Ryoichi Taguchi UD10; Adrian Hernandez TKO6; Omar Narvaez KO2; Kohei Kono TKO6; Jamie McDonnell TKO1; Juan Carlos Payano KO1; Emanuel Rodriguez KO2; Nonito Donaire UD12, TKO2; Jason Moloney KO7; Paul Butler KO11; Stephen Fulton TKO8

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None

*Also won and defended a WBA sub-title at bantamweight in 2018


Marlon Tapales 

Age: 31

Title: WBA/IBF Super Bantamweight (2023-Present, 1st Defense)

Previous Titles: WBO Bantamweight (2016-17)

Height: 5’4   

Weight: 121 ¼ lbs.

Stance: Southpaw

Hails from: Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines

Record: 37-3, 19 KO, 2 KOBY

Press Rankings: #2 (TBRB, Ring) #4 (ESPN), #5 (BoxRec)

Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0, 2 KO (3-1, 2 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)

Last Five Opponents: 118-35-5 (.763)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Pungluang Sor Singyu KO 11; Ryosuke Iwasa TKO by 11; Murodjon Akhmadaliev SD12

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None

The Case for Inoue: If Tapales hears the bell for the fourth round, it will be a moral victory. Some orthodox fighters struggle with southpaws. Inoue, when he’s seen them, has been at his most lethal. Against Narvaez, Payano, and Dasmarinas, Inoue was almost perfect. Payano and Narvaez had never been stopped before and Narvaez was never stopped again. Dasmarinas hadn’t been stopped since his fourth pro fight almost a decade earlier. If Inoue can line up the right hand early against Tapales, the southpaw veteran’s reaction could determine what his chances could be. Regardless, Inoue appears the faster fighter, he’s proven to be more explosive, and if he can’t land upstairs he is one of the sport’s most crippling body punchers. He also showed again against Fulton he’s more than power and talent, boxing a beautiful, controlled contest that showed off an elite ring IQ. The case for Inoue is he’s one of the game’s most complete combinations of power, speed, and skill since Roy Jones Jr. and it’s a fool’s errand to pick against him until he loses more than three or four rounds of a fight. He’s arguably gone six fights without clearly dropping a frame.      

The Case for Tapales: Tapales wasn’t supposed to be here but he is and there are elements in why he’s here that could make this fight interesting. Tapales has some defensive craft; he slips well and keeps his left glove in position to pick shots. He throws an effective lead uppercut, can have canny timing with his overhand left, and against Akhmadaliev showed excellent control in making sure not to stay inside too long when he came forward with combinations. If Tapales can keep Inoue from setting his feet for the right hand and make a mess of Inoue’s timing by continuing to step out to a safe distance, there is always the potential for him to steal rounds and play for the upset. It will be a razor’s edge task as Tapales, shorter in height and arm length, will have to find a way to time a fighter who is quicker than him. Tapales can’t afford, as was the case sometimes with Akhmadaliev and in a loss to Iwasa, to let his jab hang when he pulls it back because Inoue can pull the trigger over a lazy jab as good as anyone in boxing.

The Pick: Tapales, even with a perfect game plan and execution, will have his hands full Tuesday. Inoue has faced bigger punchers, he’s faced craftier boxers, and he’s often been at his best when lights are brightest. Is there any chance of a hangover after the Fulton win? Inoue was as good that night as he has ever been and sometimes those performances can be hard to repeat. It says here he doesn’t have to be quite as dialed in. The gap in physical talent appears to favor Inoue and Tapales is too offensive minded to avoid being hit. Tapales might last more than three rounds but the pick is for him to join the stack of southpaw knockout victims Inoue is building. Inoue makes history and adds to an increasingly historical career on Tuesday.    


What You Missed

More in Boxing

  • Nara24 FM Live