Naoya Inoue has created history.


The four-division titlist and high-ranking pound-for-pound earned his second undisputed championship in just more than a year after an eleventh-round knockout of the Philippines’ Marlon Tapales. Inoue scored two knockdowns, the latter which produced the full ten count at 1:02 of round ten to fully unify the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO junior featherweight titles Tuesday evening at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

Inoue was composed in the opening round of their Lemino/ESPN+ main event. The pound-for-pound great was content to measure up Tapales with his jab and occasionally shoot a right hand. Tapales fought conservatively behind a tight defense but enjoyed a brief moment of success with a left hand over the top of Inoue’s guard.

The right hand began to flow more freely for Inoue in round two. It was bad news for Tapales, who never had the chance to directly take the fight to the four-division champ as promised. He instead sat back and waited for counter opportunities that never materialized. Inoue landed a right hand after Tapales overshot a jab.

Tapales continued to offer a defensively responsible fight through three. Inoue tried to punch through the Filipino’s guard and let loose a four-punch combination along the ropes. Tapales didn’t fall for consecutive taunts by Inoue, and instead timed the second one well enough to let loose a jab upstairs and a left hand to the body.

Inoue was all the way warmed up on the fourth. Both fighters landed body shots but Tapales was unable to land anything to get his opponent’s attention. The same most certainly could not be said in reverse. Every punch was thrown with conviction by Inoue. Tapales was driven to the ropes, where a left hook, right hand clean-up left hook sent him to the canvas for an eight count inside the ten-second mark.

Tapales bit down and let fly his left hand in round five. Inoue took the shots well but for the first time was made to respect his opponent’s pop. A right uppercut by Tapales found the mark but he could not follow up as Inoue adjusted and immediately returned fire.

Inoue was far more dominant in the back half of the sixth. Tapales came forward and boxed well until he was clipped by consecutive lead right hands to drive him across the ring. Inoue continued on the attack for the final minute, landing fluid combinations upstairs as Tapales struggled to find his footing.

Tapales opened the seventh with a stiff right jab to set up what was his best round to that point. It caught Inoue’s attention but also triggered a left hook and right hand in return. Tapales missed with a left hand but was able to just avoid return fire as he saw the incoming left hand.

Inoue made Tapales pay for reaching with his jab and landed a pair of right hands behind it in the ninth. Tapales was driven back but remained upright and landed body shots. Inoue threw a right hand that was blocked by Tapales, who landed a jab and left hand in return. Inoue drove a right hand down the middle, which forced Tapales to cover up and not offer a response.

A one-two connected for Inoue at the start of the tenth. Tapales remained upright but not for much longer. A final right had by Inoue was enough to jar Tapales and force him to fall to the canvas. The willingness was there to get up, but Tapales was physically unable to rise in time to beat referee Celestino Ruiz’s ten count.

The loss ended Tapales’ WBA/IBF junior featherweight title stay after less than nine months. He outpointed Murodjon Akhmadaliev via split decision in a significant upset but his four-fight win streak came to an end as he fall to 37-4 (19KOs) with the defeat.

Tapales has now failed to make a successful defense in each of his two title reigns. His stay as a WBO bantamweight titlist ended at the scales when he failed to make weight ahead of an April 2017 eleventh-round knockout of Shohei Omori in Osaka. The fight ran his record to 3-0 on Japanese soil, though that unblemished mark came to a screeching halt.

Inoue advanced to 26-0 (23KOs) with his latest historic win.

The accomplished feat was just five months after he became Japan’s first-ever two-division unified titlist after a stunningly one-sided, eighth-round knockout of Stephen Fulton on July 25 at this very same venue. He also came here just 54 weeks ago to fully unify the bantamweight division with an eleventh-round knockout of England’s Paul Butler.

This latest feat Inoue fully unify two divisions in the four-belt area in quicker time than any other boxer in history.

Terence Crawford (40-0, 31KOs) went six years between his undisputed championships at junior welterweight and welterweight. Claressa Shields won every major title at junior middleweight division just 23 months after her April 2019 win over Christina Hammer to become undisputed middleweight champion.

Prior to his arrival at bantamweight, Inoue won major titles at junior flyweight and junior bantamweight. The move up to bantamweight, particularly the back end of it, has created an historic run.

By his own admission, the next couple of fights will be of the more traditional variety.

Inoue reiterated what he previously confirmed to, that he plans to remain at 122 for at least another year. Next up is likely a mandatory title defense versus WBC number-one contender Luis Nery, while Akhmadaliev waits in the wings as the WBA's top-ranked challenger.

With the win, Inoue is now 19-0 (17KOs) in primary title fights spanning four weight divisions, along with a pair of first-round knockouts in separate WBA 'Regular' title fights at the start of his bantamweight run. 

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