Generational Naoya Inoue Steps Towards Immortality With Stephen Fulton Stoppage

All the action from the Ariake Arena in Tokyo
14:05, 25 Jul 2023

Naoya Inoue stopped Stephen Fulton in the eighth round on Tuesday to capture the WBC and WBO super bantamweight championships. This battle of unbeaten fighters was ‘Kaibutsu’s first fight since vacating his undisputed bantamweight title to move up in weight. The Japanese phenom, fighting in his 20th consecutive world championship bout, is now a four-weight king and quite simply one of the greatest boxers of this era. 

The opening round saw Inoue try to establish his jab, going to Fulton’s body. While ‘Cool Boy Steph’ was supposedly the fully-fledged 122-pounder going in, the challenger actually looked remarkably similar in size. The first three minutes were a case of the fighters feeling each other out and Fulton may have been surprised to find a size and strength match in front of him.


The second stanza saw Inoue attempting bigger, wilder shots. The American moved well to avoid them but showed a reluctance to operate the trigger on any return fire. Sensing this, Inoue drew massive cheers from the home crowd by beckoning the champion in to fight him. When Fulton did open up, he did so from too far away to land anything of significance.

Fulton upped his activity in the third, attempting to score first blood in the battle of the jabs. He ate a clipping left hook for his troubles and ended the round with blood coming from his nose. Inoue’s authority was total throughout the fourth, clobbering the WBC/WBO boss with a thudding right hook. ‘The Monster’ showed dazzling speed as he established the left-right-left three-peat as a pet combination. 

Inoue returned to the well in the fifth, rattling off more three-punch salvos. A straight right from Fulton kept him honest as a competitive round broke out. The champion tagged his challenger with some eye-catching rights but had to eat those chef’s special triple-shots in return from Inoue.


Fulton tried once again to take centre-ring in the sixth stanza. By now it was a futile exercise as Inoue proved adept at catching him from any and all angles. The assembled throng at Ariake Arena particularly enjoyed one such volley towards the end of the round.

The seventh round provided Fulton’s best punch of the fight and the one bit of adversity Inoue had to face in this ambitious title challenge. A massive right hook cannoned off the home fighter’s temple, with Fulton attempting to press home the advantage. It said everything about the temperature of this bout that the round ended with Inoue unloading along the ropes.

The end came in the eighth. Inoue sprang from a stance of stoic dominance into a wild flurry. He swarmed Fulton, knocking him down. When the American rose he was pinned in the corner and battered into near-submission, with the referee wisely stepping in. Inoue had done it again, rising to 25-0 (22). Fulton’s previously unblemished record now reads 21-1 (8).

Once again, Inoue has made a mockery of the very idea someone can challenge him in the prize ring. A dizzying combination of speed, sizzle, strength and slickness have put paid to another opponent. Fighters like Inoue don’t come along very often. Ones that combine so many of the individual traits fighters usually specialise in. To call him a power puncher is to forget his acumen. To highlight his nature as a speedster is to underplay his defensive nous. Naoya Inoue is the complete fighter. Now we must wait and see who steps forward to try and challenge his supremacy next.

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