Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue, two of the best boxers in the world, have agreed to a highly anticipated unification bout for the 122-pound title in Japan this spring. According to sources, the fight is being targeted for May, although an exact date has yet to be announced. Fans in the United States will be able to stream the bout on ESPN+ in the morning, as Inoue typically fights on Tuesdays in Japan.
Fulton, who holds the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles, is ESPN’s top-ranked fighter at 122 pounds. Meanwhile, Inoue, nicknamed “The Monster,” is ESPN’s second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter and is one of the biggest boxing stars in Japan. In his last fight, Inoue unified all four 118-pound titles with an 11th-round KO of Paul Butler to become the undisputed bantamweight champion.
Inoue, 29, recently announced that he will relinquish his four bantamweight belts in order to move up to the 122-pound division. The upcoming fight against Fulton presents a chance for Inoue to make a statement and establish himself in his new weight class from the get-go. Fulton, on the other hand, is considered one of the best fighters in the sport, regardless of weight. A matchup between these two champions is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated bouts in boxing.
Fulton, who has never fought outside of the United States, hails from Philadelphia and is promoted by PBC. Meanwhile, Inoue is co-promoted by Top Rank, and his Japanese promoter, Mr. Honda, has a significant influence over his career, especially when it comes to fights in Japan.
Fulton has been vocal about his desire to fight Inoue, stating in a June interview with ESPN that he believed a matchup between them was “realistic” if Inoue moved up to 122 pounds. He also expressed his willingness to take on the biggest names in the sport, saying, “I don’t shy away from big fights.”
Fulton’s last fight was a majority-decision victory over Brandon Figueroa in one of the most exciting fights of 2021. The WBC had ordered the rematch between the two for its interim featherweight title, but now that Fulton has turned his attention to Inoue, Figueroa is finalizing a deal to fight former featherweight titleholder Mark Magsayo on March 4.
Inoue, with a record of 24-0 and 21 KOs, is known for his incredible speed and ability to use angles, punch variety, and ring IQ to defeat his opponents. In 2019, he was involved in ESPN’s Fight of the Year when he pushed through a broken nose and fractured orbital to outpoint Nonito Donaire. In the rematch in June 2021, he scored a second-round TKO victory over the future Hall of Famer.
While Inoue has been dominant at every weight class he’s fought in so far, Fulton will undoubtedly be his toughest opponent to date. Fulton, a career-long 122-pounder, is known for his ability to box from both the inside and outside and throw upwards of 1,000 punches in his fights.
“The real battle starts from here,” Inoue said in a recent statement, indicating that he knows the upcoming fight will be his most challenging yet. Fans around the world are eagerly anticipating this highly anticipated matchup between two of the best boxers in the world, and the outcome is sure to be thrilling.