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Fulton vs Inoue puts the heavyweights to shame in a quest for immortality

Tuesday’s blockbuster in the junior featherweight division is a timely reminder how great this sport can be.

Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue demand the utmost respect from the fighting world ahead of their 122 lb title fight on Tuesday.

I know, I know — they shouldn’t need to be praised for wanting to test themselves against the best. But this type of match-up is becoming rarer and rarer in boxing. Two men at the peak of their powers willing to lay it all on the line against the best opponent they could currently pick. Simple, right?

It’s a bout that puts the rest of the boxing world to shame. I spoke last week about the current heavyweight gridlock, but even if we forget about the sleeping giants, the sport has long been littered with examples of over-marination and unnecessary waiting.

Fulton and Inoue will meet just four days before the second super-fight of the week, but as good a fight as Crawford vs. Spence is, it is undeniably too late in both fighter’s careers.

Fulton (21-0, 8 KO) is just 29 years old, and his opponent, Inoue (24-0, 21 KO) is just 464 days his senior. Both are unbeaten and neither have shown the slightest bit of deterioration in their physicality or ability as they chalk up rounds in the pro game.

Inoue has been tested more than Fulton — notably against Nonito Donaire and perhaps Jason Moloney — but there would be zero surprises if either man, or both, delivered career-best performances inside the Ariake Arena.

Further credit is given when you consider the relative concessions each man has given up to make this fight work. Inoue was going to climb up from 118 lbs to 122 lbs anyway, but to take a fight of this difficulty in his first at a new weight is admirable; as is Fulton’s willingness to travel east and fight the Japanese monster in his own backyard.

Maybe the fight won’t live up to expectations, but criticism will be dripping in revisionism. A brutal puncher and finisher in Inoue moving up a class to take on a well-drilled Philly technician has all the hallmarks of a classic; we can only hope the script lives up to the trailer.

If Inoue wins well then it’s impossible not to consider him as the No. 1 fighter across the sport. A win for Fulton sees him gatecrash the top five in the pound-for-pound standings and become one of the new faces of boxing.

And for us fans? Well, it’s win-win either way.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewis_watson8 and subscribe to his free weekly sports newsletter “The 12th Man Newsletter” at

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