Everything You Need to Know About Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue’s Highly Anticipated Showdown
The most anticipated week in the modern era of boxing is upon us. Getting it started early tomorrow morning in Japan, Stephen Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) will be defending his unified super bantamweight title against former undisputed bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan. Inoue is widely regarded as a top three pound-for-pound talent, and many pound-for-pound lists even have “The Monster” holding down the top spot. Fulton has become a fringe top ten pound-for-pounder within his last few fights, and with a win here he certifies himself as a pound-for-pound elite.
Inoue is 19-0 with 17 KOs in title fights, but what makes this fight so special is that he has never been in the ring with someone who has the size and pure boxing skills of “Cool Boy Steph”. On the contrary, Fulton is only 3-0 in title fights and like Inoue will be facing the best opponent of his career to date. Though Fulton has much less championship experience, he has been fighting bigger and stronger men so we will have to see if Inoue’s dynamite punching power has the same effect on Fulton that it did on his previous opponents.
Inoue is roughly a 4/1 favorite, and though I expected him to be favored I think the bookies are massively underrating Fulton. I see a legit path to victory for both guys and see it as closer to a 50/50 matchup than the odds suggest. If Fulton is to pull off the upset, he is going to have to fight virtually a perfect fight. Whenever a boxer faces a puncher, most assume that means the boxer has to stay on the outside to avoid their opponent’s power. But I also see Fulton potentially having success in this fight when he closes the distance and works on the inside against Inoue. He is the naturally bigger fighter of the two, and fighting on the inside will allow him to attack from angles and also smother the power of Inoue. I anticipated that Fulton will have sustained periods of success in the early rounds, and how he weathers the storm once Inoue starts to get going could be the difference between winning and losing.
The x-factor in the fight, as it is for any Naoya Inoue fight, is his offensive firepower. His explosiveness to the head and body, coupled with his elite timing can change the course of a fight in a split second. Just because he can punch doesn’t mean Inoue is one-dimensional either. Much like unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev and lightweight superstar Gervonta Davis, Inoue’s boxing skills get underrated due to his ability to finish fights in devastating fashion. If Inoue is to come out victorious in his fourth weight class, he will need to apply constant pressure on Fulton and not let him get into a rhythm. When Brandon Figueroa fought Fulton late in 2021, he made the fight close by attacking his body and pinning him against the ropes as much as possible. Figueroa has a bigger frame than Inoue so it may be harder for Inoue to control the ring against Fulton, but if he can he is a much more explosive puncher than Figueroa and could dish out punishment on Fulton like he’s never seen before.
What makes this fight so special is that both men are truly daring to be great. Inoue could have opted to take a “tune-up” fight in his new weight class against a contender before facing a champion but elected to go straight into a mega-fight against the highest-rated champion in the weight class. Earlier this year, Fulton was set to move up in weight and fight Brandon Figueroa in a rematch for the “interim” WBC featherweight title. Once he got the news that Inoue was interested in a fight for this summer, he scrapped the plans of moving up in weight and demanded to his team that they make the fight happen. As I mentioned during the premier episode of “Catch and Counter with Jack and Nibs” (linked below) this weekend, this is not the type of fight that creates a great fighter: this is a fight between two great fighters where the winner has a legit claim to being the top pound-for-pound fighter currently in the sport.
The co-main event will feature Robeisy Ramirez (12-1, 7 KOs) making the first defense of his WBO featherweight title against hometown favorite Satoshi Shimizu (11-1, 10 KOs). Like Ramirez, Shimizu is a two-time Olympian and won a bronze medal at the 2012 games. Ramirez is not just a two-time Olympian, he is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has adjusted well to the pro game after a rough start. Since dropping his pro debut in a shocking upset, Ramirez has been on a roll and now has cemented himself as the best featherweight in the world in my opinion. Shimizu is a tough fighter who will not go down without a fight, but I see the talent discrepancy being too much for him to overcome in this one.
I expect Robeisy to get the job done with relative ease and set his sights on unification fights within the 126lb division. Shimizu will be game, but the longer the fight goes the more I expect Robeisy to show separation and pick him apart. If he does indeed get the job done, the perfect next opponent for him would be the winner of Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) and Joet Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs). They fight for Lopez’s IBF title in September and whoever wins could meet Robeisy early next year in a unification bout.
This is just the beginning of a historic week in boxing, and tomorrow’s title fight doubleheader is one hell of an appetizer for what is to come. Down below I have attached the first-ever episode of ITR Boxing’s new show, “Catch and Counter with Jack and Nibs” where we preview tomorrow morning’s card. Check it out!