Naoya Inoue, undisputed super bantamweight champion, has been ordered by the WBA to defend against his mandatory Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The two fighters have until July 30th to agree to a deal before a purse bid. They have until September 25th to fight.

The Case for Moving Up in Weight

Naoya has already cleaned house in the 122-lb division, and there’s no point in staying in this played-out ghost town because there are no viable options for him.

Some fans feel that Inoue is afraid to move up to 126 because many talented fighters could beat him and wreck his popularity in Japan.

There’s zero upside for Inoue to stay at 122 to defend against Akhmadaliev because that’s not a fight that U.S fans would be interested in watching.

For ESPN to attract good ratings for Inoue’s fights, he needs to start facing opposition that fans care about, like Gervonta Davis, Vasily Lomachenko, and Shakur Stevenson. Fighting in the U.S would help as well.

Inoue (27-0, 24 KOs) must decide whether to take this fight or vacate. The Japanese star also has his IBF mandatory defense due against Sam Goodman, which would be easier for him because he’s not a big puncher.

A better move for Inoue would be to vacate his four super bantamweight titles and move up to featherweight, where he can be tested against a better class of fighters, which the boxing public would like to see him fight.

If Inoue moved up to featherweight, he would have these interesting options for him to fight:

– Nick Ball
– Luis Alberto Lopez
– Rafael Espinoza
– Raymond Ford
– Robeisy Ramirez

Potential Mega-Fight with Gervonta Davis

Naoya Inoue has the size to move up to 135 to challenge Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis for his WBA ‘regular’ lightweight title in what would be a massive pay-per-view contest between these two stars.

The former IBF/WBA super bantamweight champion Akhmadaliev (12-1, 9 KOs) lost his two titles to Marlon Tapales in 2023, losing 12 round split decision. Inoue knocked out Tapales in the tenth round last December in Tokyo.

Last December, Akhmadaliev bounced back, stopping Kevin Gonzalez by an eighth-round knockout.

Inoue has built a resume from wins over non-big-name fighters, and some people believe he’s overrated. Past his best, Nonito Donaire had Inoue hurt in their first fight in 2019. Donaire is the only notable name on Inoue’s resume.

Read the full article here