Naoya Inoue is done with the bantamweight division but at least one title could wind up back in his family.
A press conference held Monday afternoon (local time) in Tokyo confirmed a second title fight and the full lineup for a blockbuster April 8 show at Ariake Arena. Takuma Inoue, Naoya’s younger brother, will face former WBA junior bantamweight titlist Liborio Solis for the vacant WBA bantamweight title. The bout will serve as the chief support to the already announced Kenshiro Teraji-Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez lineal/WBC/WBA/WBO junior flyweight championship unification bout as previously reported by BoxingScene.com.
The show will air live on Amazon Prime in Japan and ESPN+ in the U.S.
Also confirmed during the press conference, Kanagawa’s Reiya Abe (24-3-1, 10KOs) and Spain’s former two-division titlist Kiko Martinez (44-11-2, 31KOs) will meet in a scheduled twelve-round IBF featherweight title eliminator. The winner will become the mandatory challenger to recently crowed champ Luis Alberto Lopez.
Rounding out the show is the pro boxing debut of Japanese combat sports superstar Tenshin Nasukawa versus an opponent to be named.
Technically, Nasukawa's bout is advertised as the main event, according to Punch Perfect Boxing podcast host Jamie Bourne. Viewers are treating the two title fights as the main focus of the show, though the majority of media questions were directed at Nasakuwa during Monday's press conference.
Takuma Inoue (17-1, 4KOs) will enter his second career title fight, which comes in the wake of older brother Naoya abdicating the undisputed bantamweight championship on January 13. All four major belts remain vacant, with the WBA title fight the first to be confirmed among the lot.
The younger Inoue has won four in a row since a November 2019 points loss to then-unbeaten WBC bantamweight titlist Nordine Oubaali. His past three starts have taken place in the 122-pound junior featherweight division, including an eighth-round knockout of Jake Bornea on December 13 at the very arena that will host his next title challenge. That same event saw Naoya Inoue fully unify the bantamweight division following an eleventh-round knockout of England’s Paul Butler.
Takuma will fight on a show separate from his brother for the first time since November 2021.
Solis (35-6-1, 16KOs) will enter his fourth attempt to become a two-division titlist.
The 40-year-old from Panama City by way of Maracay, Venezuela held the WBA 115-pound title a decade ago but lost it at the scale after badly missing weight ahead of a December 2013 unification bout with then-IBF titlist Daiki Kameda. Solis won via split decision but left the ring as an ex-champion, having since competed at bantamweight or heavier.
Solis is 0-2 with one No-Contest in three separate full bantamweight title shots. He also came up short in a February 2020 decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux for the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ bantamweight title, which was followed by a current five-fight win streak versus non-descript opposition.
The positioning of Solis in a vacant title came as a bit of a surprise, considering that Melvin Lopez—a Nicaraguan contender based out of Miami—was previously one spot higher in the WBA bantamweight rankings and even fought on a show sponsored by the WBA on the eve of its annual convention last December in Orlando, Florida. The most recent ratings update saw Solis move ahead of Lopez, whose next step could either be to fight for the vacant IBF title or wait out Inoue-Solis and potentially face the winner.
In the main event, Kyoto’s Teraji (20-1, 12KOs)—a 2022 Fighter of the Year finalist—will risk his lineal, WBC and WBA junior flyweight titles versus Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez (27-3-1, 15KOs) who brings his WBO title back to Japan.
The two appeared on the same November 1 show in Saitama. Teraji dethroned unbeaten countryman and WBA champ Hiroto Kyoguchi in their seventh-round of their unification bout. Gonzalez made his second title defense in the co-feature with a twelve-round decision win over Shokichi Iwata, who will resurface on an April 1 card in lieu of rumors that he would also appear on this show.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox