By Jeff Aranow: WBO super flyweight champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue (15-0, 13 KOs) reportedly is more than happy to face WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete (26-3, 18 KOs) in 2018 in the UK.
If Inoue challenges Tete for his WBO bantamweight title in his first fight in the 118lb weight class in 2018, it would show some real courage on his part. Tete is a much bigger puncher than the weaker punchers that Inoue has been beating at 115.
Inoue successfully defended his WBO 115 lb. title for the final time last Saturday night in stopping fringe contender Yoan Boyeaux (41-5, 26 KOs) by a 3rd round knockout in Yokohama, Japan. Inoue knocked Boyeaux down 3 times in the contest. After the fight, Inoue let the media know that he’s moving up to bantamweight.
Zolani Tete is seen as one of the best champions at bantamweight. He’s been interested in fighting champion Ryan Burnett, but he hasn’t gotten the chance to fight him. Inoue would be a good opponent for Tete if the fight can be put together.
Inoue, 24, says his ultimate goal in the future is to move up 3 more divisions to the featherweight division to capture a title in that weight class. That would make Inoue a 5 division world champion if he’s able to win world titles at 118, 122 and 126. Inoue has already captured world titles at light flyweight and super flyweight. Inoue vacated his WBC 108 lb. title in November 2015, and then moved up to super flyweight and defeated WBO 115 lb. champion Omar Andres Narvaez by a 2nd round knockout in December 2014 to win the WBO belt. Inoue skipped the flyweight division  entirely, and went straight to super flyweight.
Inoue has faced criticism for the fights that he didn’t take at 108 and 115. Inoue captured the WBC World light flyweight title in beating a weak champion in Adrian Hernandez by a 6th round knockout in April 2014. 3 years later, Hernandez is more of a journeyman level fighter, having lost 3 out of his last 4 fights. Inoue didn’t face Milan Melindo, Angel Acosta, Ken Shiro or Ryochi Taguchi. At super flyweight, Inoue didn’t fight Jerwin Ancajas, Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada. Those fighters are the best in the 115 lb. weight class, and Inoue didn’t fight any of them. Inoue skipped the 112 lb. division, where he would have had to face Daigo Higa and Donnie Nietes. Those are tough fighters.
If Inoue’s goal is to strategically beat weaker champions in order to win world titles in 5 weight classes, he might have some luck in doing so. If Inoue is careful in who he selects, he could win world titles all the way up to featherweight. It’s going to be difficult though. The weak links at featherweight are Oscar Valdez, Abner Mares and Lee Selby. It’s possible Inoue might be able to beat those guys, but he’ll have problems beating Gary Russell Jr. and Leo Santa Cruz. Those guys will force Inoue into a war, and it’ll be very tough for him to get past those guys. Inoue had problems with David Carmona at super flyweight. Santa Cruz and Russell Jr. would likely destroy Carmona. Inoue is going to have to add some size for him to be able to compete with the flyweights.
Inoue fought on the September 9 SuperFly card in defeating Antonio Nieves by a 6th round knockout. While it was a good performance by Inoue, he did it against a guy that had lost his last fight. Nieves came into the fight with Inoue having lost his previous contest to Nikolai Potapov in March of this year. That’s the main problem with Inoue. He looks good in his fights, but he doesn’t face the best for some reason. Inoue is being matched against guys that are beatable instead of the top fighters in his weight classes. That’s why it’s hard to know if Inoue is as good as some people think he is. We didn’t fight Rungvisai, Cuadras, Estrada, Gonzalez or Ancajas at super flyweight. Boyeaux had no problem landing his shots on Inoue, but he’s not one of the quality fighters in the 115 lb. division. Boyeaux was selected from below the top 5 at super flyweight.