Naoya Inoue, arguably Japan’s most promising boxing star, has his sights set on a lofty goal for 2017: to become a bigger global star.

The unbeaten WBO super flyweight champion said that he wouldn’t hesitate to fight against the weight division’s best boxers in the world if given the chance.

“First off, I will have to reflect on how I’ve practiced to develop myself further from this point on, and I have got to finish every fight I fight in better fashion,” Inoue said at Ohashi Gym on Thursday before resuming his workout.

Inoue posted a sixth-round TKO win over compatriot Kohei Kono on Dec. 30 at Ariake Colosseum, defending his belt for the fourth time.

“I’ve got to fight more perfectly in 2017,” Inoue said.

The 23-year-old is expected to fight again in May. His opponent has not been finalized, but gym president Hideyuki Ohashi said the WBO could order the Japanese champion to face a designated opponent. Ohashi added that the gym will negotiate with a top super flyweight, such as Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras (35-1-1) and Roman Gonzalez to take on Inoue.

The potential Inoue-Gonzalez showdown is already a hot topic among hard-core boxing fans and media around the world. Gonzalez, who won the WBC super flyweight title from Cuadras by unanimous decision last September, has a 46-0-0 record (38 KOs) and is considered one of the best boxers on the planet. Nicaragua’s “Chocolatito” is currently No. 1 on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list.

Inoue is known as “Monster” for his unparalleled talent, yet he humbly said that he has tons of things that he needs to improve.

Though he went 3-0 last year, Inoue was bothered by fist and lower back injuries. He also struggled to get in peak physical condition.

Looking ahead, Inoue suggested that it would be significant to be in his best physical condition on upcoming fight nights because he’s expected to have bigger bouts, potentially outside of Japan for the first time, this year.

“Having the right condition for my fights and fighting with better balance will be what I want to improve this year,” said Inoue, a native of Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Shingo Inoue, the boxer’s father and trainer, agreed with his son’s point, saying that “it wouldn’t mean anything” if he puts in hard work in training but isn’t in top condition on the day of the fight.

Meanwhile, IBF light flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi also got back to work for the first time since he successfully defended his title for the second time with a 12th-round TKO over Thailand’s Samartlek Kokietgym at the same event as Inoue.

The 33-year-old triple-division champion is also scheduled to get in the ring in May, facing interim IBF flyweight champion Milan Melindo.

Yaegashi was originally supposed to meet Melindo on Dec. 30, but the Filipino withdrew due to a nose injury and Yaegashi was assigned to fight Samartlek just a few weeks before the event.

“It’s great that we already know who I’ll be fighting against at this point, because we can study him early on,” said Yaegashi, who’s recognized for his fierce toe-to-toe style of boxing. “I would like to focus on the fight and definitely win it.”


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