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Naoya Inoue is looking to close out 2023 with style when he attempts to become undisputed champion for the second time in his career, this time at super bantamweight, when he faces Marlon Tapales on Tuesday in Tokyo.

Inoue will be bringing the WBC and WBO titles he won in one of the year's best performances, dominating Stephen Fulton before scoring a stoppage in the eighth round. The Fulton fight was Inoue's first at the weight, having moved up after a December 2022 stoppage win over Paul Butler that secured Inoue the WBO bantamweight title to go undisputed at 118 pounds.

Inoue has not fought a non-title fight since defeating Adrian Hernandez to capture the WBC junior flyweight title in April 2014, the sixth fight of Inoue's pro career. Since then, he has continued moving up weight divisions, taking his shocking power with him all the way from 108 to 122 pounds, with 22 knockouts during his undefeated 25-0 career.

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Tapales is no stranger to big fights and is coming off an upset victory over Murodjon Akhmadaliev in April to win the IBF and WBA world titles. That win wasn't without some controversy as one of the three scorecards turned in was 118-110 in favor of Akhmadaliev, who may have been more deserving of the win.

This is the second run as world champion in Tapales' career, having defeated Shohei Omori in 2017 to win the WBO bantamweight title. He has drifted between weight classes since that first title win before securing the fight with Akhmadaliev.

After Inoue's win over Fulton, it was clear this was the next fight up, as Tapales entered the ring for a respectful faceoff with the Japanese superstar.

"I consider Naoya to be a great, skilled and intelligent boxer," Tapales said in an interview with BoxingScene. "But I know all the hard work I put in during training camp in Las Vegas and the Philippines will have me ready for this moment.

"I am well aware that I am not the favorite according to the oddsmakers. But, I don't care about that, the result will be different than what they think."

The undercard features more matchups in the lower weight classes. Seiya Tsutsumi is set to take on Kazuki Anaughci in a bantamweight contest. Flyweights Kanamu Sakama and John Paul Gabunilas are set to duke it out on the main card as well. Plus, Yoshiki Takei is set to take on Mario Diaz Maldonado at super bantamweight in a featured bout.

Let's take a look at the rest of the undercard with the latest odds before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.

Inoue vs. Tapales fight card, odds

FavoriteUnderdogWeight class
Naoya Inoue (c) -2800 Marlon Tapales (c) +1250 Undisputed super bantamweight title
Seiya Tsutsumi Kazuki Anaguchi Bantamweight
Kanamu Sakama John Paul Gabunilas Flyweight
Yoshiki Takei Mario Diaz Maldonado Super bantamweight

Viewing information

  • Date: Dec. 26
  • Location: Ariake Arena -- Tokyo
  • Start time: 3 a.m. ET (Main event around 6 a.m. ET)
  • How to watch: ESPN+


Tapales as a +800 underdog is not really a comment by the oddsmakers on his quality as a fighter, but rather on the otherworldly skills of Inoue, who is undoubtedly one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. The ease with which Inoue handled Fulton, who should have been a very stiff test, was another reminder of how special Inoue is, with blazing speed and crushing power to go along with underrated technical proficiency.

Tapales has been dropped and stopped before, most recently by Ryosuke Iwasa, a solid fighter but one without the shocking power Inoue brings to the table. Tapales will be game and will certainly give it his best shot but it's hard to imagine there's any real path to victory unless Inoue has the worst night of his life. The real question is whether Tapales can score the moral victory of making it through 12 full rounds without being stopped. That seems unlikely. Pick: Naoya Inoue via TKO6