Unified junior featherweight champions Naoya Inoue and Marlon Tapales will be fighting for the undisputed crown on Dec. 26 at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.
Former bantamweight and junior featherweight titlist and current 122-pound WBC mandatory challenger Luis Nery is patiently waiting to get a crack at the winner.
Should the -1400 betting favorite Inoue be the victor and decide to defend his crown at 122 pounds instead of moving up to 126 pounds, Zanfer Boxing head and Nery promoter Fernando Beltran already has big plans for his southpaw slugger.
“If Inoue does good, for sure we probably will meet Inoue in May,” Beltran told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “So honestly, I feel very confident in this fight. It’s a very good fight. I really believe that Nery is one of the best fighters, if not the best 122 pounder … I think [Inoue] will wait for Nery, and I believe Nery wins the fight.”
Beltran’s decades-long relationship with Inoue co-promoter Top Rank should factor in to get a potential deal done with relative ease. The fight would most likely be staged in Japan, where Inoue is a massive draw.
Nery wrote on social media on Thursday “big news” with emojis showing the Japanese flag, and an icon declaring soon.
The Tijuana-born and bred boxer is viewed as a villain of sorts in Japan, and Inoue has previously declared that a fight with Nery is the reason why he would remain at 122 pounds.
In 2017, Nery scored a fourth-round TKO win against long-reigning Japanese bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka in Kyoto. Nery tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol following the fight, a violation the WBC later labeled as contamination.
In the 2018 rematch against Yamanaka in Japan, Nery was three pounds overweight, lost his title on the scale, and received what was considered at the time a lifetime ban by the Japanese Boxing Commission. Nery ended up knocking out Yamanaka in two rounds; Yamanaka hasn’t fought since.
In recent years, Nery has fought through more weight issues and trainer changes while suffering his lone career loss to Brandon Figueroa in 2021. He’s also declared that Inoue doesn’t live up to his moniker of being “the monster.”
Nery has since bounced back and delivered a fight of the contending stoppage win against Azat Hovhannisyan in February.
The 29-year-old Nery last fought in July and scored a second-round TKO win against Froilan Saludar in Mexico.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.