Preview and predictions for Inoue vs Fulton
BetOnline customers will have the opportunity to see something very special when they wake up Tuesday morning, as one of the claimants to the title "best pound for pound" will be on display. Naoya "The Monster" Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), who most recently unified the world titles at 118 pounds (bantam weight), will go after the unified 122-pound title in what may be his toughest fight yet.
The opponent, who happens to be the champion, is Stephen Fulton, who comes out of Philadelphia with a record of 21-0, 8 KO's.
They'll clash in Tokyo on ESPN Plus (+).
Inoue started winning world championships in only his sixth pro fight, as he captured the WBC light-flyweight (108-pound) belt. He then won the WBO junior bantamweight crown and made seven successful defenses. From there it was a bantamweight title and a unification, He seems to have retained his punching power every step of the way. Last time out he stopped Paul Butler in eleven rounds at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, where this bout will be held. He also has two victories over former champion Nonito Donaire, with a vicious second-round KO last June.
Fulton won the WBO 122-pound title with a decision over Angelo Leo in January 2021, and he has made only two defenses in the last 2-1/2 years. Daniel Roman, a former unified champion, probably provided the toughest opposition last June, but Fulton won a near-shutout decision.
This will be Fulton's first fight to take place outside the United States.
In the boxing betting odds posted on this fight at BetOnline, Inoue, fighting in front of his countrymen, is the favorite:
Naoya Inoue -360
Stephen Fulton +290
Over 10.5 Rounds -125
Under 10.5 Rounds +105
First of all, there is a natural size difference, and for this bout, it would have to go in favor of Fulton. These days in boxing, fighters move up in weight to get better paydays, and sometimes they move up too far. Will this be the case with Inoue? We'll see.
That's one angle. Another angle has to involve raw power. Inoue is moving up to yet another division, even though it is only four pounds higher than the last one. So you'd have to ask whether he can knock out a premier junior featherweight the way he did to bantams, junior bantams and so forth.
If you watch Inoue for any length of time, you're going to notice that he "swings for the fences," to use a baseball term, much of the time. Sometimes he'll leave himself open on those occasions when he does that and doesn't land.
Fulton is known as a very capable counter-puncher, but with a knockout record like his (and of course, we have seen him too), it isn't likely that he is going to have the requisite thunder in his blows to make Inoue pay in a big way when he misses. Yes, he'll score points. But will Inoue be missing the mark with a high degree of consistency? That's what he may have to do to give Fulton a great chance.
Remember that with a guy of Inoue's power, all it takes is one punch to land for the entire trajectory of this fight to change.
Fulton is a good fundamental boxer with a jab that he uses a lot. And obviously that will be a key to victory for him.
From what I've seen, Fulton is good, but I would not consider him to be extraordinary. And extraordinary is something he may have to be. Yes, he moves well, but Inoue is pretty good at cutting off the ring. While I think Inoue can keep the pressure going for twelve rounds, I doubt Fulton can keep the Monster out of his face for that long. And Fulton has shown a tendency to get hit to the body, which puts himself right in Inoue's wheelhouse.
Whichever way it happens - knockout or decision - I like Inoue.
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