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Who wins Fulton vs Inoue? Preview and predictions for the big fight

Who wins between Stephen Fulton Jr and Naoya Inoue on Tuesday?

Who wins between Stephen Fulton Jr and Naoya Inoue on Tuesday?
Who wins between Stephen Fulton Jr and Naoya Inoue on Tuesday?
Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Stephen Fulton Jr is in Japan and set to defend his pair of 122 lb titles against Naoya Inoue on Tuesday in Tokyo, and you know we’ve got our picks in and ready to go!

So who wins?

Scott Christ (62-29)

Fulton’s a really good fighter. Inoue is a great one. Fulton is naturally bigger, which helps, and he boxes effectively behind an actual weapon of a jab, but so does Inoue. Inoue’s been quoted as saying he doesn’t do anything special, he just does the basic things well, that’s hammered into his mind set, and I think you see that clearly when you watch him. What he does often looks special, but there’s no One Weird Trick that drives the doctors crazy with rage about him. He just does the simple stuff extremely well, all the time.

I’m going to pick a distance fight here. I think Fulton is crafty enough to not take a ton of damage, but it’ll be a clear Inoue win, and Fulton may not be engaging very much past the midway point. Inoue UD-12

Wil Esco (71-20)

As much as I rate Naoya Inoue as a P4P talent, there certainly is going to come a point where he stretches his physical limitations too far against an opponent who will take advantage.

So I think this is a fight where Fulton has a legitimate chance to win because he’s both skilled and naturally bigger, and I would probably otherwise pick him to win here except that I’m now sitting on a comfortable lead in the staff picks and will gladly deny Stumberg an opportunity to close the margin. If Inoue breaks Fulton down and stops him I’d be plenty impressed, but I suspect a fight that’s much more likely to go to the cards. Inoue UD-12

John Hansen (63-28)

It’s a testament to how good Inoue is that he’s moving up yet another division, taking on a unified champion, and he’s still a significant favorite. He’s a coin flip for the absolute best in the sport right now, and he’s wasting no time at a new weight challenging another P4P-quality champion in Fulton.

I can’t quite convince myself to pull the trigger on a Fulton win. I think he’s very gifted, and I think he’s got the talent and the style to win this fight. Scott will probably discuss this first, but I also put a lot of stock in his insistence on taking this challenge, and on the road to boot. I think I gave him a 30-33 percent probability on the podcast, and I could probably talk myself into a little better than that.

But Inoue is at a point now where I’ll believe he’s beatable only once I’ve seen him beaten. Fulton has the tools and the toughness to win this fight, and I think he’ll make it a very close one. Maybe even a more finesse, less slugging reinterpretation of the first Donaire fight. I can’t pick against Inoue, but I’m very ready for the sort of fight that threatens to make me regret it. Inoue MD-12

Patrick Stumberg (70-21)

Here’s the difference between Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton. Naoya Inoue is inhumanly consistent; he never has to bail himself out of bad spots because he never gets into bad spots. Fulton, by contrast, constantly puts himself into bad spots and then leans on his strengths to escape. He gets backed to the ropes with clockwork regularity, then uses his jab, combinations, and head movement to force his opponent to back off. That’s the whole reason Figueroa had so much success despite lumbering footwork and maybe 1/10th of Fulton’s slickness.

Where Figueroa neutralized Fulton by being too damn stubborn to retreat, Inoue is the rare technician who can match Fulton at a distance. Fulton cannot give a seek-and-destroy fighter like Inoue those sorts of opportunities, not when Inoue will be carving chunks out of his midsection every time.

If I wanted to be pithier, I’d put it this way: I can imagine Fulton losing even without extenuating circumstances. I can’t picture Inoue losing until he is outright dwarfed by his foes. Nobody below 126 beats Inoue, Fulton included. Inoue TKO-9

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