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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue and Marlon Tapales to Fight on Boxing Day

Naoya Inoue will put his WBC and WBO super bantamweight title belts on the line against Filipino opponent Tapales, the WBA and IBF champion.

Unbeaten four-division champion Naoya Inoue is scheduled to return to the ring on December 26 in Japan with a quest to become the undisputed super bantamweight world champion. 

Inoue, the WBC and WBO champion, seeks to grab Filipino pugilist Marlon Tapales' WBA and IBF title belts.

An official announcement appears imminent, and the blockbuster bout on Boxing Day is expected to take place in Tokyo.

Sean Gibbons, Tapales' promoter, has been quoted by several media outlets saying that the fight night is set.

Inoue (25-0, 22 knockouts) made his super bantamweight debut on July 25 and earned an eighth-round technical knockout of Stephen Fulton, dethroning the American champion at Ariake Arena. The 31-year-old Tapales (37-3, 19 knockouts) attended that fight in Tokyo and joined Inoue, aka "Monster," in the ring afterward, where they revealed their intentions to square off before the end of the year.

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue punches Stephen Fulton in the sixth round of their title fight on July 25. (ⒸSANKEI)

What's at stake for Inoue: A shot at becoming the second boxer to be crowned undisputed champion in two weight classes in the four-belt era (since 2004).

Who accomplished the feat first?

Terence Crawford in the light welterweight and welterweight divisions, the latter accomplishment occurring on July 29 against Errol Spence Jr.

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue (KYODO)

Naoya Inoue is Focused on Training

With Inoue's camp and Tapales' handlers working out the details, Inoue commented in late September, according to Nikkan Sports, "I hear that negotiations with Tapales are progressing very well."

The boxing superstar added: "We are practicing for the Tapales match [with late December as the target]."

Tapales is also focused on getting ready for the fight.

"I am happy that my regular training is going well," Tapales said in a statement issued by MP Promotions. "My stamina, endurance, punching power and quickness are in good shape." 

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Haruka Kitaguchi (KYODO)

Take a Food Journey Around the World!

Track and Field

Javelin Star Named a Finalist for Prestigious Award

Haruka Kitaguchi, winner of the women's javelin competition at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August, is one of 11 finalists for the Women's World Athlete of the Year accolade.

World Athletics, track and field's global governing body, announced the finalists on Wednesday, October 11.

Fans are encouraged to vote online via World Athletics social media platforms, and fan votes will count for 25% of the total vote tally. The 26-member World Athletics Council's votes (50%) and World Athletics Family's votes, also referred to as the 214-member federations, (25%) are also included.

On December 11, the winner will be announced.

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The Lakers' Rui Hachimura posts up against the Kings' Harrison Barnes in the third quarter of an NBA preseason game at Honda Center on October 11 in Anaheim, California. (Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Basketball

Hachimura Having a Solid Preseason for the Lakers

Rui Hachimura has averaged 13.0 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' four NBA preseason games through Friday, October 13.

Hachimura had his best scoring game so far this preseason on October 9 against the Brooklyn Nets, finishing with 19 points in 20 minutes.

The Lakers, who reached the Western Conference finals in the 2022-23 season, are 2-2 heading into their fifth of six preseason games on Sunday, October 15 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Watanabe Celebrates 29th Birthday, Aims for Success with Suns

Several days before his 29th birthday, Phoenix Suns veteran Yuta Watanabe contributed 10 points, five rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes in a 130-126 road win in overtime over the Detroit Pistons on October 8.

The Suns' Yuta Watanabe shoots a jumper against the Pistons on October 8 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. (David Reginek/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Reflecting on his role with the Suns, his fourth NBA team after stints with the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Nets, Watanabe said he has high hopes for the upcoming season.

"I feel very confident in myself," Watanabe, who turned 29 on October 13, was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

"It feels like I've gained a lot of strength. I've learned how to exert energy while remaining under control."

In Phoenix's first three preseason games, Watanabe averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 22.5 minutes.

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Kashiwa Reysol's Sachiro Toshima celebrates after scoring a goal against Roasso Kumamoto in the Emperor's Cup semifinals on October 8 in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture. (KYODO)

Soccer

Reysol, Frontale to Meet in Emperor's Cup Final

J.League first-division club Kashiwa Reysol clinched a spot in the Emperor's Cup final against Kawasaki Frontale by beating Roasso Kumamoto 4-0 on October 8.

In the semifinal, Sachiro Toshima gave Reysol a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute. Eiichi Katayama notched Kashiwa's second goal in first-half injury time against their J2 foe. Mao Hosoya and Tomoki Takamine added goals in the second half in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

Also on October 8, Frontale defeated visiting Avispa Fukuoka 4-2 in the other semifinal at Todoroki Stadium, getting three second-half goals to secure a spot in the title match.

The final is set for December 9 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Kashiwa, a three-time Emperor's Cup winner, earned its most recent title in 2012. Kawasaki won the 100th Emperor's Cup on January 1, 2021, for the 2020 tournament, which featured 52 teams.

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Japan's Ao Tanaka scores in the second minute against Canada in an international friendly on October 13 in Niigata. (KYODO)

Samurai Blue Start Strong in Rout of Canada

The Japan men's national soccer team jumped out to a big first-half lead en route to a 4-1 win over Canada in an international friendly on Friday, October 13 in Niigata.

Ao Tanaka led Japan with two goals, bagging his first goal in  the second minute and adding another in the 49th minute.

An Alphonso Davies own goal extended Japan's lead to 2-0 in the 39th minute. Keito Nakamura made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute at Denka Big Swan Stadium.

Canada's Junior Hoilett scored in the 89th minute.

"My first goal was right on target, [while] the second one took my teammate (Takumi Minamino) giving me time and getting me the ball in space," Tanaka told reporters.

The Samurai Blue are back in action on Tuesday, October 17 with a friendly against Tunisia in Kobe. Kickoff is 7:10 PM.

Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita speaks at a news conference on October 11 in Sapporo. (KYODO)

Olympics

Sapporo Drops 2030 Bid

The scandal-tainted 2020 Tokyo Olympics soured public sentiment for Sapporo to proceed with a bid for the 2030 Winter Games. That prompted Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhito Yamashita to pull the plug on the bid.

Instead, they announced on Wednesday, October 11 that Sapporo will push back plans to make an Olympic bid for the 2034 Games or perhaps later.

"There's a possibility that moving forward with the bid movement too hastily will leave an irrecoverable wound on the value of sports," Yamashita said at a news conference, according to Kyodo News. "I'm sorry for the people of Sapporo and Hokkaido."

The IOC responded to the news with a diplomatic reaction.

"They are going to remain in continuous dialogue phase which is designed to be flexible. It’s non-committal on both sides," IOC spokesman Mark Adams was quoted as saying by Reuters in Mumbai where he attended the IOC executive board meeting. "There will continue to be some dialogue over the coming years. But they have obviously made it clear that 2030 is too soon for them."

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Daring Tact (13) is seen with jockey Kohei Matsuyama in an October 2020 file photo.

Horse Racing

Daring Tact Officially Retires

Six-year-old Daring Tact, winner of the Japanese fillies' Triple Crown in 2020, has retired. The Epiphaneia-sired thoroughbred won five of 13 career starts, finished runner-up once and had three third-place finishes.

Making Daring Tact's retirement official, the Japan Racing Association canceled the horse's registration on Thursday, October 12, according to Sankei Sports.

Daring Tact, winner of the Japan Racing Association Award for Best Three-Year-Old Filly in 2020, last competed at the Japan Cup in November 2022, placing fourth. She had injured her right foreleg in May 2021 and was sidelined for nine months before making a comeback.

The popular racehorse is set to be bred at Okada Stud in Shinhidaka, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda pitches in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Target Field on October 10. (Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Quote of the Week

"My elbow has been renewed, so I believe I can throw at least five more years. I'll decide where to play based on the offers I get."

Minnesota Twins pitcher Kenta Maeda said, according to Kyodo, after the team was eliminated by the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series on October 11 in Minneapolis. Maeda, 35, becomes a free agent after the conclusion of the World Series.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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