Pound for Pound star Naoya Inoue suddenly finds himself in the same breath as the champions at 122 pounds.
Inoue is currently linked to a jump-up in weight to super-bantamweight just weeks after destroying Nonito Donaire.
Stephen Fulton Jr. and Murodjon Akhmadaliev have featured heavily in the same sentences as “The Monster,” – whose logical next step is moving up again.
Firstly, Inoue wants to become undisputed at 118 pounds fully. That means he has to fight Paul Butler first.
Holding the WBA, WBC, and IBF versions, Inoue is the top dog. Butler came late to the party after regaining a title through an interim back door.
However, the Ellesmere Port man finds himself in the firing line and on the verge of facing one of the world’s most formidable fighters.
Inoue’s team has reached out to Bulter, and it’s hoped the fight can happen before Fulton and Akhmadaliev get any call.
“People were saying that me becoming the number one pound-for-pound fighter all depended on what happened in the Donaire fight, and things worked out as well as I could have imagined,” Inoue told The Japan Times.
“From here on, I want to give performances worthy of the number one pound-for-pound fighter.
“To do that, I need to unify the bantamweight world titles and then take on the super-bantamweight division.”
On battling Butler, potentially in the UK, Inoue added: “Talks are progressing in a good direction. I have no preference where the fight takes place.
“If it happens by the end of this year, I don’t care whether it happens in Japan, the US, or the United Kingdom.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. I want the fight wherever it is.”
Naoya Inoue super bantamweight
Butler would be a considerable underdog, considering he came up from the smaller weights. The 33-year-old has fluctuated but was as low as 113 pounds at one point.
Inoue began five pounds south of that benchmark. It’s a testament to his viciousness and brute strength that he’s considered a dominant figure against fighters like Donaire and Butler.
Heading to 122, some believe that’s where the actual tests lie for Inoue. Fulton fought his entire career at super-bantamweight. As for Akhmadaliev, he moved down in weight from 130.
Starting his career at 108, Inoue has to be career how far he moves up the ladder, especially if he has any ambitions of going any further up the scales.
Manny Pacquiao did it in eight divisions, but he was a once-in-a-generation legend.
At 122, we may find out how good Naoya Inoue really is and how much that power carries the bigger he gets.