Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton's Epic Clash in Four Different Weight Classes

Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton
(source:Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)
Prepare yourself for a thrilling showdown as Naoya Inoue, the formidable Japanese fighter known as "The Monster," takes on his next challenge in the quest to become the pound-for-pound king of professional boxing. Having already claimed dominion in bantamweight and captured world titles in both the flyweight and super flyweight divisions, Inoue is now eyeing another crown, this time in the super bantamweight class.

His ambition will be put to the ultimate test as he squares off against the current WBC and WBO titleholder, the tenacious Stephen Fulton, in the electrifying setting of the Ariake Arena, Tokyo, on a momentous Tuesday night (July 25, 2023).

Despite venturing into this weight class for the first time, Inoue, with an impeccable record of 24-0 (21 KO), exudes unwavering confidence. In a recent press conference, he stated, "I am highly motivated and fully prepared for this fight. It's my debut in the 122 lbs division, and that's why I'm extremely motivated."

"I have high expectations for myself. I want to showcase my abilities."

As a newcomer to the super bantamweight division, surprisingly, Inoue finds himself favored in this encounter. However, he must not underestimate Fulton, who boasts a record of 21-0 (8 KO) and is a natural in the super bantamweight class, evident from his taller physique compared to Inoue.

Rare Encounters with Unbeaten Fighters

Fulton's record is nothing to scoff at either. Despite having fewer KO victories than Inoue, the Philadelphia native is renowned for his toughness inside the ring. In fact, Inoue is the 10th undefeated fighter Fulton will face in his 22-fight career.

Among his victories is a significant triumph over Angelo Leo in January 2021, where Fulton not only ended Leo's unbeaten streak but also claimed the WBO world title.

Fulton also stands as the sole fighter to defeat Brandon Figueroa in their WBC/WBO unification bout in November 2021, securing a majority decision win.

On the other hand, prior to facing Fulton, Inoue had encountered only one unbeaten fighter. It was when he clinched his first bantamweight world title against Emmanuel Rodriguez from Puerto Rico on May 18, 2018. Inoue displayed sheer dominance in that match, forcing Rodriguez, the IBF bantamweight champion, to surrender in less than two rounds.

This victory paved the way for Inoue's relentless march to boxing supremacy. He went on to defeat Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision in November 2019, securing the WBA belt, and scored a second-round knockout to claim the WBC title last June.

In 2022, Inoue added another accolade to his collection by knocking down Paul Butler in the 11th round to seize the WBO bantamweight crown. This achievement solidified his position as the first Asian boxer to unify titles across divisions in the multi-belt era.

Following Kazuto Ioka's Footsteps?

If Inoue prevails over Fulton at the Ariake Arena, he will become the second Japanese boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes. The first pugilist to achieve such a remarkable feat was Kazuto Ioka in June 2019. Inoue firmly believes that the super bantamweight division is the best fit for his skills and aspirations.

"My preparation is going well," Inoue confidently stated. "I believe super bantamweight is the perfect weight for me."

As the highly-anticipated clash between Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton inches closer, fans around the world eagerly await the spectacle of two elite fighters vying for greatness in the unforgiving world of boxing. The outcome of this encounter will shape the legacy of both pugilists and cement their places among the sport's all-time greats. One thing is certain: when these two monsters collide, sparks will fly, and history will be made in the squared circle.

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