Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) is hard at work, as he's preparing to make his next defense of the WBA and IBF bantamweight world championships.

The undefeated puncher is going to return on December 14 in Japan, when he faces Thailand's Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11 KOs).

Several boxing events were recently canceled in Japan, because the country increased their travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

But Inoue was lucky, because his opponent was already in the country when the restrictions were implemented.

Inoue will be looking to put on another impressive performance in the contest.

“Each and every fan is going to have expectations. And I want to defy and go beyond each and every one of their expectations,” Inoue, 28-years-old, told The Associated Press.

Inoue would like to fight WBO champion John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21 KOs) in 2022. They were set to collide last year, but their fight was canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.

Casimero returns on December 11, when he makes a mandatory defense against Paul Butler. On the same day, WBC champion Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) will defend his title against mandatory challenger Reymart Gaballo.

Inoue would like to retire from the sport when he turns 35. For now he wants to unify some more belts and make a move to super bantamweight in 2023.

“I am still far from the ideal style of boxing I am pursuing. If I get contented now, then I will just hit a wall when I go to super bantamweight. There’s so much farther to go before I reach my peak, and I still don’t know my true potential. I still have seven or eight years as a pro, and so I’m going to keep heading higher," Inoue said.