Fulton, Inoue 122-lb championship set for May 7
Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue will fight May 7 in Yokohama, Japan, for Fulton’s unified 122-pound championship, Inoue’s US promoter Top Rank announced on Monday.
In January, Sportzshala reported that the parties had reached a deal for the May bout to air on Sunday mornings in the US on Sportzshala+.
Fulton, 28, is Sportzshala’s No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds. Inoue, who is a major star in Japan, is Sportzshala’s No. 2 boxer in the weight class.
Nicknamed “The Monster,” Inoue unified all four 118-pound titles in Tokyo in December, knocking out Paul Butler in the 11th round to win the undisputed bantamweight title.
Inoue, 29, announced in January that he would give up all four belts in preparation for the 122-pound campaign. The Fulton fight will give Inoue the opportunity to establish dominance in his new weight class right out of the gate.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) isn’t just the best fighter at 122; he is also one of the best regardless of weight.
Fulton, who hails from Philadelphia and has never fought outside the US, is promoted by PBC and Inoue is promoted by Top Rank, two advertising companies that rarely do business with each other. However, Inoue’s Japanese promoter, Akihiko Honda, sets the direction for the tri-division champion’s career, especially when those fights take place in Inoue’s homeland.
In June, Fulton told Sportzshala that he thought the Inoue fight would be “realistic” if Inoue got up to 122 pounds in time.
“I don’t shy away from big fights,” Fulton said at the time. “Many want to see [me vs. Inoue]; a lot of people want to talk about it too.”
Fulton and Brandon Figueroa were on track for a 126-pound rematch after the WBC booked an interim featherweight title bout in November. Fulton scored a majority victory over Figueroa when they faced off in one of the best fights of 2021.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) is one of the most dynamic fighters in all of boxing, a fighter with blinding speed who uses angles, variety of punches and IQ in the ring to make short work of the best opponents. He competed in Sportzshala’s 2019 Fight of the Year when he went through a broken nose and orbital fracture to get past Nonito Donaire.
Inoue left no doubt in the rematch last June when he scored a second-round TKO against the future Hall of Famer.
Against Fulton, Inoue will certainly face his biggest and most difficult test to date. Fulton is a 122-pound fighter with a long career who can box both inside and out and often land over 1,000 punches in his fights.
Meanwhile, Inoue began his career at 108 pounds. Generational talents like Inoue often don’t reach their limits until they keep gaining weight.
“The real battle starts here,” Inoue said in January.