Japanese star Naoya Inoue scored a 10th-round KO of Marlon Taples on Tuesday in Tokyo to capture the undisputed junior featherweight championship.
“The Monster” landed two right hands in succession that were partially blocked, but following a systematic breakdown of Tapales, the punches were enough to finish the fight.
After the second shot landed, Tapales dropped to one knee on a delayed reaction and was counted out at 1:02 of Round 9 to lift Inoue to his second undisputed championship in 12 months.
Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) also scored a knockdown in Round 4 after a left hand connected followed by a barrage of punches.
“I think [junior featherweight] is my weight class for now so, in 2024, I would like to show myself at [junior featherweight] in even stronger form,” Inoue said in translated remarks.
” … I am so happy that I got the knockout in such a decisive manner.”
Inoue, ESPN’s No. 2 pound-for-pound boxer, won the undisputed 118-pound championship last December with an 11th-round KO of Paul Butler.
The 30-year-old then made his 122-pound debut in July against the top fighter in the division, Stephen Fulton. Inoue knocked him out in Round 7 to claim the WBC and WBO titles.
Tapales (37-4, 19 KOs) offered far more resistance than Fulton but found no answers nonetheless. The 31-year-old Filipino landed the career-high payday after he upset Murodjon Akhmadaliev in April via split decision to win the WBA and IBF titles.
His heavy, snappy jab was effective against Inoue, too, but it only served to stave off the inevitable. After all, Inoue was a -2000 favorite, per ESPN BET.
Tapales was game and determined but was overmatched in every imaginable category: speed, power, strength and athleticism. Tapales was able to use his ring smarts and effective pressure to back up Inoue, but sustained success was harder to come by.
Inoue pounced on every precious punching opportunity with explosive combinations as Tapales boxed from a high guard. He was wise to show Inoue’s power such respect.
The last Inoue opponent to hear the final bell was Nonito Donaire in ESPN’s 2019 Fight of the Year. Inoue blasted him out in Round 2 of the rematch.
Tapales, a former 118-pound champion, simply couldn’t keep up with Inoue punch for punch. In Round 4, the southpaw and Inoue traded hooks to the body; Inoue won the exchange. And moments later, he rocked Tapales with a left hook before the planted him on the canvas.
Inoue patiently pursued the KO after that sequence with the knowledge Tapales is a capable counter-puncher. The underdog connected on a series of powerful right uppercuts in Round 5 and found his best success in Round 7 on the strength of his jab.
But just like all of Inoue’s prior opponents from 108 pounds and beyond, it was a matter of time.
“He never showed me fatigue or damage from his face, so I was quite surprised when he went down in the 10th round,” said Inoue, who has now stopped seven consecutive opponents.
“It was one of the most intense fights I’ve had before, probably, but my corner cheered me up and kept me focused throughout the bout.”
Inoue could next focus on Luis Nery. The Mexican earned a title shot with his thrilling KO victory over Azat Hovhannisyan in February’s WBC eliminator. The organization is due up in the rotation system used for unified champions. Inoue indicated his next bout is slated for May.
He’s already etched his place in boxing lore with his sustained run of dominance at the elite level. Inoue has proven that his greatness isn’t bound by weight with titles in four weight classes but appears committed to 122 pounds for the foreseeable future.