Naoya Inoue isn’t simply the best boxer alive – he’s an absolute star and continues to add chapters to his legendary career.
“The Monster” continued its climb up the all-time mythical list with another incredible feat, delivering a pulverizing eighth-round TKO to Stephen Fulton on Tuesday in Tokyo to secure the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles.
Not only did the Japanese star pack a punch with his supernatural speed and power; He also prevailed dominantly against Fulton, winning every round until the break.
By the eighth round, Fulton was covered in blood and suffered a one-sided takedown when Inoue executed a brutal right handshake that staggered Fulton. He seemed about to go down as Inoue hit him in the face with a left hook that sent Fulton’s body hitting the canvas.
Fulton somehow got to his feet but was in no shape to continue when Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) suddenly punched him in the face, triggering a vortex that folded him up while the referee saved him from further punishment.
There’s no doubt that Inoue is the pound-for-pound king and it was with this brilliant performance that he caught the eye of Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford. They clash for the undisputed welterweight championship in Las Vegas on Saturday and the climb is heralded as a pound for pound battle for supremacy.
But if any of the fighters are really hoping to send Inoue off, they’re going to have to endure something extraordinary on Saturday. In all likelihood, they will fight for second place behind Inoue.
Top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings belongs to Inoue, who easily defeated the No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds in his first fight in that weight class. In boxing right now there is nobody who can achieve what Inoue is doing.
The 30-year-old won his first title at 108 pounds and has carried his strength north more than four weight classes.
Fulton, himself a very good fighter who became champion in 2021 by defeating Brandon Figueroa, seemed at a loss as to how to deal with Inoue. Aside from two hacking right hands that Fulton landed flush in round 7, there were only a handful of other punches from him that mattered over the course of the fight.
Inoue can do everything. His footwork is outstanding, allowing him to set up shots from uncanny angles. His hand speed is second to none, which is why Fulton was hesitant to open for fear of retaliation. And Inoue’s shots are sharp and compact, leaving his opponents little room for error.
Inoue, who is 1.75m tall, said early in the fight that he was “pushing the limits of my physique, my limits” but so far that’s nowhere near true. Inoue’s talent doesn’t appear to be limited by weight classes. The truly great fighters are only tested when their weight increases to the point where it’s just too much.
Inoue has great speed and power behind his punches. He is a special fighter! #InoueFulton
— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) July 25, 2023
Perhaps that will also be the case with Inoue at some point. But not yet. He then greeted Marlon Taples – who holds the other two junior featherweight titles – in the ring, setting up a showdown for the undisputed 122-pound championship later that year.
Inoue will be a huge favorite to win all four belts in a second weight division after winning the undisputed bantamweight championship in December with an 11th round KO over Paul Butler.
After Tapales, Inoue may also be done at 122 pounds. With his incredible strength still in place at 122, it stands to reason he could drop 126 pounds as well.
Robeisy Ramirez, an Olympic gold medalist, defended his featherweight title with a fifth-round TKO in Tuesday’s main assist bout. It’s a natural fight for Inoue next year.
The question now is: How much weight can Inoue gain? When will it be too much?
In the vein of the great Manny Pacquiao, who also won his first title at 108 pounds, Inoue may be able to perform at elite level at 130 pounds and up. With everything Inoue has achieved so far, it would be foolish to ever doubt him.