Naoya Inoue has reportedly now agreed a deal to challenge Stephen Fulton for his WBC and WBO super-bantamweight world titles next.
The fight, which many boxing fans believe is one of the best that can be done in the sport today, pits two of the best fighters in the lower weight classes against one another.
America’s Fulton will be the defending champion, with Inoue moving up to try and become a four-weight king.
However, Inoue is undoubtedly the bigger attraction of the pair and so, according to BoxingScenethe deal has been done between the pair for their fight to take place in May or June in his home country of Japan.
Inoue’s world title campaign began in boxing’s second smallest division in just his sixth pro fight.
Back in early 2014, aged just 20, he knocked out Adrian Hernandez to win the WBC light-flyweight (108lbs) world title.
Inoue made one defense of this belt before making his first leap up in weight.
If he’d wanted to, the Japanese superstar could surely have won a world title in the flyweight (112lbs) division, but he instead took the opportunity to jump straight up to super-flyweight (115lbs).
Despite facing a bigger foe than he was accustomed to, Inoue stopped Omar Narvaez in two rounds and won the WBO world title to become a two-weight king at age 21.
Sadly, he struggled to get the unification fights he craved in the division and, after seven successful defences, he moved up again three years later.
In his first fight at bantamweight (118lbs), he proved once more that he would have no issue dealing with bigger opponents and knocked out Jamie McDonnell in round one.
He then entered the World Boxing Super Series tournament in which he beat Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire to emerge as unified IBF and WBA world champion – a three-weight king.
While the pandemic stunted his progress in 2020 and 2021, Inoue was determined to become undisputed and hold all four belts at bantamweight.
Last year, after Donaire won the WBC crown, Inoue rematched him and knocked him out to take it.
Then, in his most recent fight, he stopped WBO champion Paul Butler in December to achieve his goal as undisputed champion.
Now, with his work at bantamweight done, Inoue has vacated all four belts and announced his plans to move up to super-bantamweight (122lbs).
At present there are just two champions in the super-bantamweight division.
Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev has the WBA and IBF belts, while America’s Fulton owns the WBC and WBO.
Fulton announced himself on the scene in 2021 as he first won the WBO belt by outpointing Angelo Leo.
He then had his first breakout win by jumping straight into a unification fight with Brandon Figueroa and taking the Mexican’s WBC crown.
In his most recent fight, Fulton beat former WBA and IBF champion Daniel Roman in another impressive points victory.
The 28-year-old American is a magnificent boxer and will likely provide the toughest challenge of Inoue’s career.