It’s official: Stephen Fulton Jr will head to Japan to defend his pair of 122 lb titles against Naoya Inoue on Sunday, May 7, with ESPN+ streaming the fight in the United States.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KO) will be making his 122 lb debut after going undisputed at bantamweight with his December knockout win over Paul Butler in Tokyo. The 29-year-old “Monster” is seen by many as the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing today — including our site’s rankings — and has won world titles at 108, 115, and 118 lbs.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KO) may turn out to be the toughest challenge of his career, with due respect to future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire and other quality opponents Inoue has faced. Fulton is a true top 122 lb fighter, holds the WBC and WBO titles, and like Inoue, has one of the best jabs in the sport — you may even believe they are the two best jabbers in boxing, and it’s not a bad argument.
This fight came together after Fulton, 28, chose to push for a fight with Inoue rather than moving up to featherweight for a rematch with Brandon Figueroa, who just beat Mark Magsayo this past Saturday.
It’s a bold and hugely admirable move by Fulton, who put aside any potential promotional issues between PBC and Top Rank to go after a big fight on the road against one of the sport’s top names. And it’s big for Inoue, obviously, and also a real challenge. No matter how great they are, when fighters keep going up and up in weight, they always meet a wall.
Will 122 and Fulton be Inoue’s wall? I can’t wait to find out.