Naoya Inoue Sizes Up Stephen Fulton for a Battle at 122
Unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs) is preparing for his battle with WBO 118-pound champion Paul Butler (34-2, 15 KOs) on December 13. But Inoue is a man with an idea of what he wants to do for the foreseeable future. Towards the end of 2021, he went to social media saying he intends to fight in the junior featherweight division in 2023.
Ranked number 3 in the 3Kings Boxing Top Ten Fighter Rankings, Inoue has won world titles at 108, 115, and 118, dominating each of those divisions. In his prime years, some might wonder why is eyeing another move up in weight. During an interview with Ring Magazine, the 29-year-old explained why.
“I’ve been feeling it for a while now. At 122 pounds, I can move more, and I think I can demonstrate my strength more. However, that’s just me being able to move better (and be more active). I don’t know how much damage I can do to opponents who should be naturally bigger. It will be an unknown world […] I also feel that if I move up to 122, my power will still increase, and I can hit harder.”
A fighter who has shown incredible power throughout his career, it’s scary to think that he feels he will be an even harder puncher at junior featherweight. The standouts at 122 are IBF/WBA Super champion “MJ” Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KOs) and WBC/WBO champ Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr (21-0, 8 KOs). Inoue is not too familiar with Akhmadaliev but shared an opinion on Fulton Jr.
THOUGHTS ON COOL BOY STEPH
“I watched the Fulton-Brandon Figueroa fight. Fulton is a technical fighter. He can keep his distance very well. I only watched one of his fights and I don’t think the Figueroa fight was his best, so I’d rather not say much more.
If we fight each other, I think it will be a great technical battle. It won’t be an easy fight. Fulton has a long reach, and I think it’s about how well I close the distance.”
A thing to note is that Inoue has never faced a black fighter in his career, and he was asked about this fact.
“I haven’t sparred with any black fighters yet, either. That’s also an unknown area for me. The black athletes tend to be physically strong. I’d love to fight them and feel their athleticism.
Fulton is looking to face Akhmadaliev for undisputed status by the end of this year. Should he attain that goal, one would guess the fighting pride of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would be open to a showdown with Inoue.
A TANTALIZING MATCHUP
With his long arms, movement, and boxing skills, Fulton is one of the more complete fighters in the lower-weight divisions. On paper, a fight between him and Inoue would be a highly competitive battle.
But there’s still some work to do before that potential fight could happen. However, it’s something that would have the hardcore heads intrigued. If Inoue is already talking about facing Fulton, it’s something to keep tabs on for 2023.
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By: Michael Wilson Jr.