History-making Inoue stops brave Tapales in 10

Naoya Inoue (25-0 22KOs) made history once again, scoring two knockdowns against Marlon Tapales and claiming a 10th-round knockout victory to become the undisputed super-bantamweight world champion.

Inoue, who only made his super-bantamweight bow in July against Stephen Fulton Jr, added the IBF and WBA titles to his WBO and WBC belts, with victory over Tapales (37-3, 19KOs) at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

The opening round was slow, with Inoue targeting the body and Tapales not offering much in return bar a few jabs and an attempted lunge on the inside with a long left straight, which Inoue pivoted around. 

Inoue began to find a home for the right hand in the second round, with Tapales guilty of falling in and getting tagged. In the closing stages of the second, Tapales snapped Inoue's head back courtesy of a stiff right-hand jab.

The third saw Inoue up the pace with a fast flurry of jabs and landing a straight right through the guard. Tapales was able to throw two body shots before following them up with a one-two to the body. In the final minute of the session, Inoue began pushing Tapales onto the back foot with educated foot placement, making Tapales a static target for the jab.

They traded heavy shots in the fourth, but Inoue's power was telling despite Tapales's best efforts to push the action. Tapales then came unstuck due to a left hook around the guard, which sent the Filipino to the canvas with only 13 seconds remaining of the round.

Tapales strung together his best punches of the fight in the fifth with three uppercuts and hooks to the body which momentarily wobbled Inoue. However, the Japanese star punched through Tapales’s defense with uppercuts and he found a home for the left hook as Tapales looked uncomfortable on more than one occasion in a toe-to-toe round. 

In round six, Inoue was more successful keeping Tapales at range behind a fast jab, and again, Inoue was able to punch through the guard. The Filipino was also pushed back in the final minute following a fast check-hook. Inoue followed up with an unanswered three-punch combination to close out the round.

The seventh was more tame, which allowed Tapales to work in the centre of the ring and, courtesy of a positive front-foot position, he was able to land the jab and make Inoue miss – at times wildly – much to the Japanese champion's frustration. Tapales finished the round with a sharp left hand, which landed flush. 

The pattern of the previous round continued in the eighth, with Tapales making Inoue miss and capitalising on his mistakes. But Inoue made the appropriate adjustments in the final minute and landed a hard uppercut as Tapales dipped his head, and Inoue followed that success with a one-two combination. 

In round nine, Tapales was a static target by failing to circle around Inoue, which allowed Inoue to re-establish his jab and one-two combinations, forcing Tapales back onto the ropes. Inoue punished Tapales with a fast double jab and straight right which, for the first time, seemed to make Tapales uncomfortable sharing a ring with Inoue – despite his gallant efforts. 

Inoue ended proceedings in the 10th with a sharp jab and a blocked straight right hand, rocking Tapales back towards the ropes. Inoue capitalised and landed a long, straight right hand which split Tapales’s guard and dropped him to the canvas. 

Tapales, on his knees, was slow to climb back to his feet and was ultimately counted out by referee Celestino Ruiz with an official stoppage time recorded at 1-02 of the 10th. 

Inoue subsequently praised Tapales for his bravery while confirming he will remain at super-bantam, aiming to improve as a 122lbs fighter. 

"First and Foremost, I want to thank Marlon Tapales for fighting me," said Inoue.

"Secondly, I want to thank everyone involved in making this fight happen. Ohashi Promotions, Bob Arum and Top Rank. It was a great fight to be a part of, but I think super-bantamweight is my division, and I want to show everyone that I can improve." 

Inoue spoke of his relief of being victorious, saying the contest was the most intense of his career. 

"I am so relieved at the moment and relieved to have secured a TKO victory against such a tough opponent,” he added. 

"He [Tapales] never showed me any fatigue or damage on his face, so I was very surprised that he went down in the 10th round." 

Inoue also praised his corner for maintaining his focus and concluded by saying: "It was a very intensive fight, something which I had not experienced at any point in my career. I think, however, I thank my corner men for keeping me focused throughout the fight."

In December, 2022, Inoue became undisputed champion at bantamweight following victory over Paul Butler, meaning he has added a second undisputed championship inside a full calendar year.