Naoya Inoue and Luis Nery have agreed to a deal for a May fight in Tokyo for Inoue’s undisputed junior featherweight championship, sources told ESPN on Monday night.
Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) claimed ESPN Fighter of the Year honors when he KOed Marlon Tapales in Round 10 last month to become undisputed champion.
The Japanese star’s victory followed an eighth-round TKO win over Stephen Fulton in July, when Inoue claimed two titles in his 122-pound debut. Inoue, 30, is ESPN’s No. 2 pound-for-pound boxer.
Nery (34-1, 26 KOs) received a lifetime ban from the Japan Boxing Commission in March 2018, but officials involved have been assured the Mexican will be reinstated, sources said.
The ban was handed down following Nery’s pair of stoppage wins over Japan’s longtime champion Shinsuke Yamanaka.
Nery scored a fourth-round TKO win over Yamanaka to capture the WBC bantamweight title in August 2017, but was suspended afterward when the banned substance zilpaterol was found in his system.
Nery argued the adverse finding was the result of tainted meat consumed in Mexico. In the March 2018 rematch, Nery stopped Yamanaka in Round 2 but did so after he weighed 121 pounds for a 118-pound title bout. The pair of violations led to the ban.
But Nery earned a shot against Inoue, who usually fights in Japan, when he scored an 11th-round KO over Azat Hovhannisyan in February. The WBC title eliminator was named ESPN’s runner-up for Fight of the Year.
Nery, 29, has won four consecutive fights since his lone professional defeat, a seventh-round TKO vs. Brandon Figueroa in a May 2021 title fight. Nery is rated No. 3 by ESPN at 122 pounds.
Against Inoue, Nery faces long odds to become a two-time junior featherweight champion. “The Monster” is a generation talent fighting at the peak of his powers.
Inoue’s undispsuted title victory over Tapales was remarkably his second in many weight classes in the past 12 months. Inoue stopped Paul Butler in the 11th round of their December 2022 meeting to become undisputed champion at 118 pounds.
Inoue also reigned as champion at 108 and 115 pounds.