Sensational Japanese talent Naoya Inoue becomes world champion in fourth weight division
Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) has now removed any doubt that he is well up there on the pound for pound list after knocking out the undefeated unified world champion Stephen Fulton (21-1, 8 KOs) in Tokyo up at 122 pounds.
The bout was his debut at super bantamweight and after already jumping up multiple weight categories throughout his career the ‘monster’ went straight into a unified world title fight at 122 pounds, which alone proves that he is an exceptional talent.
Some doubters questioned whether the 4 pounds jump in weight would be a reach for Inoue and if his power would carry and they were proved to be completely wrong, with Inoue dominating the fight until he viciously stopped Fulton in the eighth round.
The Japanese sensation showed that he is way more than just a puncher but an elite boxer with ring IQ as good as any. I say this as his boxing ability is sometimes clouded by the discussion of his freakish power. Inoue couldn’t have chosen a better opponent to prove that he was more than just a puncher at any weight category with Fulton’s boxing ability been what he is known for in the boxing sphere despite his lower knockout percentage.
Round by round breakdown:
The opening two rounds were largely controlled by Inoue and frequently saw Fulton struggle to respond and score back.
The early rounds showed in some ways that Fulton was out of his depth. In the third, Inoue worked well off a fast sharp jab and often beat Fulton to the punch.
Takeaways from the third were that Fulton wasn’t utilising his jab enough and that he was also struggling with counterpunching. However, he was struggling arguably because of Inoue’s superior speed and reflexes.
In round four, Fulton landed a notable right hand and began to come slightly more into the fight despite Inoue utilising a sharp jab to the body which was what would set up his money shot later in the fight. Despite Fulton coming into the fight more so than the early rounds, Inoue’s precision was what put him in the lead.
Early in the next round both men landed good shots and you could hear Fulton’s corner attempting to inspire him to bring the fight to Inoue by telling him to “believe in himself”. Later in the round Inoue’s power from combinations seemed to push Fulton back on his feet. Inoue returned to his corner looking notably fresher than Fulton and this really highlighted his exceptional engine and was a slight tell tale of what was to come.
In the sixth, Fulton came out from his corner and attempted to hold the centre of the ring which worked for a small amount of time until Inoue began to press Fulton at mid-range and take control. Early in the seventh, Inoue lunged forward into his shot and continued to land an effective jab. However, Fulton landed a clean right hand on Inoue that momentarily made him hesitant to throw. Then Inoue pumped the gas slightly and proceeded to cut off the ring and land the jab again. Fulton landed a clear stiff jab at the end of the round.
Almost a minute into the eighth, Inoue tactfully set up a big right hand with the prominent jab to the body that he used effectively throughout the fight. This power shot sent Fulton stumbling to the canvas and Inoue immediately knew he had Fulton hurt which was displayed by his celebratory run to the ropes. After Fulton just about made it to his feet to beat the count Inoue’s renowned predatory instinct kicked in as he rushed toward Fulton with a flurry of shots that resulted in the referee stopping the fight.
Inoue has achieved his applaudable aim of becoming world champion in a fourth weight division and solidified his acknowledgment as an elite pound for pound contender. However, all props and respect must be given to Stephen Fulton for defending his titles and making the fight against what is a sensational generational talent in Naoya Inoue.
Inoue now looks ahead to become undisputed at super bantam weight against Marlon Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs) after the fellow unified champion entered the ring to respectfully welcome the fight.
Inoue now should be crowned the pound for pound king, at least for this short moment in time. This is because this Saturday sees the super fight between Erroll Spence Jr and Terence Crawford to which the winner is arguably number one, pound for pound, and this is particularly the case if Crawford wins the bout. However, this is merely debatable and there is also solid argument for Inoue staying in that spot.