The victory lap will be brief.

Naoya Inoue has already begun plans for his next fight, a conversation that already took place in the background ahead of his latest fight. The four-division champion became a freshly crowned undisputed king after a tenth-round knockout of WBA/IBF titlist Marlon Tapales to fully unify the 122-pound division. Inoue held the WBC and WBO belts headed into the Lemino/ESPN+ main event from Ariake Arena in Tokyo.

His current vision now calls for a third fight within a ten-month span.

“We plan to return to the ring in May,” Inoue confirmed during his post-fight interview. “We can’t really discuss who that might be since we are in negotiations.”

As previously reported by, Inoue will likely next defend versus WBC mandatory challenger and former two-division titlist Luis Nery. The four sanctioning bodies agreed to first allow Inoue-Tapales for the undisputed crown, where Inoue scored two knockdowns en route to the historic win.

Inoue previously told Boxing Scene that—with a win—his plan was to remain at junior featherweight through the end of 2024, that there remained several fights of interest at a weight where he feels comfortable.

Tijuana’s Nery (35-1, 27KOs) became the WBC number-one contender after his thrilling eleventh-round knockout of Azat Hovhannisyan on February 18 in Pomona, California. The bout remains a leading Fight of the Year contender, which saw Nery score two knockdowns and stop Hovhannisyan on his feet to earn his ranking.

Where such a fight takes place is of interest.

Yokohama’s Inoue (26-0, 23KOs) fought in his native Japan for the fifth straight time. However, Nery was previously issued a lifetime ban by the Japanese Boxing Commission after badly blowing weight ahead of a second-round knockout of Shinsuke Yamakaka in their March 2018 rematch.

Nery dethroned the previously unbeaten WBC bantamweight champion via fourth-round knockout in August 2017 to win the title. He tested positive for the banned substance Zilpaterol but attributed it to food contamination and was permitted to keep his title. The scale fail was a different matter, as his reign ended as well as his time in Japan.

Inoue has not fought in the U.S. since a June 2021 third-round knockout of Michael Dasmarinas in Las Vegas. His December 2021 return to Japan came in a routine title defense with available opposition limited due to Japan’s borders being closed to minimize the spike in Covid cases.

Since then, Inoue has enjoyed an historic run.

Tuesday’s win saw him become undisputed champion at two weight divisions in just under 54 weeks—quicker than any other boxer in history, male or female. His eighth-round knockout of Stephen Fulton to win the WBC/WBO 122-pound titles on July 25, marking the first Japanese boxer to hold unified title status at two more weights.

Last December, Inoue became the first Asian to fully unify a division in the three- or four-belt era after his eleventh-round knockout of Paul Butler brought together the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO bantamweight titles.

The win over Fulton was delayed by two months due to injury. Assuming both he and Nery (if that’s next) can stay healthy, a fight in May will mark his most active three-fight stretch since the start of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament in 2018.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox