Stephen Fulton vs Naoya Inoue Preview July 25th, 2023
There’s an excellent super bantamweight title fight this Tuesday, July 25th in Tokyo, Japan as unbeaten WBA and WBO boss Stephen Fulton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania takes on undefeated former undisputed Bantamweight Champion Naoya Inoue, who resides in nearby Yokohama. The 12-round contest from Ariake Arena can be seen live on ESPN+ in America with the card starting about 5 am EST, while fans in the UK and Ireland can catch it on Sky Sports Arena and those in Australia can order it on Main Event. Inoue last fought in December when he halted Paul Butler in the 11th round to take his WBO Title. Fulton’s last action came against former world champion Danny Roman when he beat him by unanimous decision in June of last year.
Fulton vs Inoue Betting Odds
- Stephen Fulton +310
- Naoya Inoue -410
The 29-year-old Fulton has fought 143 rounds since making his pro debut in 2014 and enters the bout with a perfect mark of 21-0 with 8 Ko’s. He’s not known as a power puncher or heavy hitter by any means as he owns a current knockout ratio of just 38.1 per cent with three stoppages in his last nine fights. He stands just over 5-feet-6-inches tall with a 70.5-inch reach and is regarded as a highly skilled boxer with speed and excellent footwork.
Just one of his first seven opponents had a winning record but since then he’s managed to defeat boxers such as Roman, Brandon Figueroa, Angelo Leo, Joshua Greer Jr, Luis Rosario. Adam Lopez, Jesus Ahumada and German Meraz. Fulton’s amateur record was a reported 75-15 and he also participated in the World Series of Boxing. His first world title triumph came in May, 2019 when he won the IBO World Super Bantamweight Title via a wide 12-round unanimous decision over Paulus Ambunda.
Fulton then captured the WBO Inter-Continental Belt by 12-round unanimous decision over Arnold Khegai in January, 2020. a year later he added the WBO World Title with another unanimous decision, this time over Angelo Leo. Next up, in November, 2021, Fulton added the WBC Belt to his collection when he edged Brandon Figueroa by a highly controversial majority decision after being outlanded 314 to 269 and being outpunched 1,060 to 726. In addition, Fulton outlanded Figueroa in just two of the 12 rounds
The 30-year-old Inoue is attempting to become just the second male Japanese boxer to win world titles in four weight divisions to join Kazuto Ioka in that feat. Inoue was also a world beltholder at 108, 115 and 118 lbs and will be fighting in the 122 lb division for the first time against Fulton. As a bantamweight, Inoue fought in the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Tournament and won the IBF belt when he stopped Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round in May, 2019.
Six months later, he beat Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision in a classic battle to capture the tournament as well as Donaire’s WBA Super World Belt. Inoue had originally won the regular WBA title in May, 2018 when he stopped Jamie McDonnell in 112 seconds. After beating Donaire, Inoue defended the belts against Jason Moloney, Michael Dasmarinas and Aran Dipaen with stoppages in the seventh, eighth and third rounds respectively.
Inoue and Donaire met in a long-awaited rematch in June, 2022 with Inoue adding the WBC Bantamweight Title to his collection when he stopped the Filipino Flash in the second round. He then became undisputed with the win over Paul Butler in December to bring his record to a perfect 24-0 with 21 KO’s. Inoue is also a former WBO Jr. Bantamweight and WBC Junior Flyweight Titleholder who has all the tools to be considered one of the world’s top pound-for-pound boxers.
He defended his Junior Bantamweight Crown seven times before moving up in weight. The Japanese star became a world champion in just his sixth pro fight when he stopped Adrian Hernandez in the sixth round for his WBC Junior Flyweight Belt in May, 2014. He defended it once then moved up to super flyweight and took the title from Omar Narvaez by second-round KO in December, 2014. Known as ‘The Monster,’ Inoue has been a sensation in his homeland since turning pro in 2012 and has boxed 138 rounds since.
He’s definitely got some dynamite in his fists with an 87.5 per cent knockout ratio but also has fine boxing skills. Inoue has stopped his last five opponents and has gone the distance just once since mid-2016 and that was the first fight against Donaire in 2019, but he did drop him in the 11th round. Inoue stands 5-feet-5-inches tall with a 67.5-inch reach so will be giving up 1.5-inches in height and three inches in reach to Fulton.
Before turning pro Inoue enjoyed a fine amateur career and is now 19-0 with 16 Ko’s in world title fights. He’s also beaten the likes of Juan Carlos Payano, Ryoichi Taguchi, Kohei Kono, Antonio Nieves, David Carmona and Ricardo Rodriguez. He’s also 9-0 with 7 Kos against current or former world champions in Butler, Donaire, Rodriguez, Taguchi, Hernandez, Narvaez, Kono, McDonnell and Payano.
This is one of the best matchups in several years and it could come down to the power of Inoue against Fulton’s slick boxing skills. Of course, Fulton is the naturally bigger man while Inoue is moving up in weight and everybody is anxious to see if Inoue’s power moves up with him. Brandon Figueroa forced Fulton to go toe-to-toe in their controversial 2021 fight and I thought Figueroa did enough to take the decision or at the worst, come out of the fight with a draw. He proved that Fulton can be hit when being pressured as he landed 314 of his 1,060 punches for a connect rate of 30 per cent. I don’t see Inoue taking the same approach as Figueroa, but if he also manages to land 30 per cent of his shots or anywhere near 300 punches it’s going to be a tough and likely short night for Fulton.
Both boxers possess great speed and footwork, can cut off the ring and are effective at close range. Fulton won’t really want to stand and trade blows with Inoue though and may try to jab and move (hit and run) and be wary of Inoue’s countershots. Inoue is a great body puncher and changes angles, speed and power when punching, but overall, Fulton has the size and speed advantage. Other than a Fulton stoppage, there won’t be a surprise ending here no matter what happens. The most likely scenarios are an Inoue stoppage, a Fulton decision, or a draw. It’s a tossup but Inoue’s power combined with his skills should be enough to eke out a win.
On a side note, Fulton should be forced to trim his beard before the fight. His whiskers arguably cushion the blows and it can also lead to inaccurate judging. How are the judges supposed to know what shots land on his chin or miss it when they can’t see it due to several inches of facial hair covering it?
Inoue can box and has the power to end the fight with one punch.
Play Inoue -410 @ BetOnline.ag
Check out my recent boxing betting picks to see my current form.