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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue Faces a Stiff Challenge in Showdown with Stephen Fulton

In his first fight as a super bantamweight, unbeaten Naoya Inoue aims to hand Fulton, the WBC and WBO champ, the first loss of his boxing career.



Naoya Inoue
Boxers Stephen Fulton (left) and Naoya Inoue attend a news conference on July 22 in Yokohama. Fulton holds the WBC and WBO super bantamweight title belts. (ⒸSANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue Faces a Stiff Challenge in Showdown with Stephen Fulton

Can Naoya Inoue become Japan's second boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes?

That question will be answered on Tuesday, July 25 at Ariake Arena. 

Inoue (24-0, 21 knockouts) will put his reputation on the line against WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton, a 29-year-old American from Philadelphia.

It will be Inoue's first bout in the 122-pound division. He officially relinquished his WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF bantamweight titles in January 2023, weeks after defeating England's Paul Butler via an 11th-round knockout to become the undisputed world champion. That fight, on December 13, 2022, was held at the same venue as Tuesday's blockbuster showdown.

The Inoue-Fulton fight was originally scheduled to be held on May 7, but it was rescheduled after Inoue, known as "Monster" to his legions of fans, sustained a hand injury during training in March.

Naoya Inoue Shares His Perspective

Despite his past achievements, including world titles as a light flyweight and super flyweight before conquering every bantamweight opponent he faced, the 30-year-old Inoue is as fired up as he's ever been to step into the ring.

"I am highly motivated since I can face Fulton in my first fight after moving up in weight," Inoue insisted during a news conference on Saturday, July 22 in Yokohama, the website Boxing News reported.

What's Inoue's impression of Fulton?


"Since I think Fulton is the strongest boxer in the super bantamweight [division]," Inoue said, "I can prove I will be the strongest boxer in the division if I beat Fulton."

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue (KYODO)

For Japan, Kazuto Ioka, 34, is the nation's lone four-division world champion. He achieved the feat at mini-flyweight, light flyweight, flyweight and super flyweight. Ioka currently owns the WBA super flyweight championship belt.

Fulton Expresses Confidence That He'll Win

In a July 2023 profile published on The Ring magazine's website, writer Joseph Santoliquito noted that Fulton owns a 10-0 record against previously unbeaten boxers.

Will Inoue become the 11th?

The answer is clear, according to Fulton.

"People have not even seen the best of me yet," Fulton was quoted as saying by The Ring. "I have made fights harder than they should have been, [and] I like it like that."

He added: "I've engaged guys when I know I could have boxed the hell out of them."

Fulton has great self-confidence. In fact, he said, "I can outbox anyone. It's up to me what I want to do," he told The Bible of Boxing.

"It depends how I will feel the morning of the fight. There is no doubt that I am going to win."



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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 Twitter @ed_odeven

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