Stephen Fulton stepped outside his native USA for the first time in his professional career today to defend his WBC and WBO super bantamweight world titles against Naoya Inoue at the Ariake Arena, Tokyo, Japan.
The fight had the entire boxing world gripped with Inoue establishing himself as a pound-4-pound star whilst achieving world titles in three weight classes.
The 15,000 seater arena in the Japanese capital played host to a bout which would see Inoue debut at 122 pounds following undisputed success at bantamweight. In comparison, the bout was intended to be the last for Fulton at super bantamweight.
The 1st round saw both men hit the center of the ring on the opening bell. Inoue landed the first jab to the body in the first 30 seconds. Fulton ripped back without much velocity inside the minute mark. Ahead of the halfway stage Inoue started to let his hangs go slightly, a good jab to the head landed nicely with just over a minute to play. Inoue ended the round on the front foot, Fulton was falling short of his jab for most of the round.
Inoue landed a right hand in the opening seconds of the 2nd round. A four punch combination saw a nice body shot connect just seconds laters. Inoue went on the chase missing a lot of his swinging right hands, but the double jab was starting to become a real asset for him. Again, Inoue ended the round on the front. With 45 seconds to go Inoue landed a double jab, right hand, reset, and let the right go again. Fulton looked to be struggling at this early stage.
Round 3 and it was Inoue starting with a double jab again. ESPN’s Tim Bradley stated that Inoue was “making it look easy.” There was some reprieve for the American in the opening minute, but Inoue landed another good jab followed by a scoring right hand moments later. Inoue got in-and-out with a good body shot with a minute to go. Fulton did have minor success with one combination, but the hometown hero landed an uppercut to close the round.
Fulton got up from his stall with some renewed vigour but Inoue landed two right hands to start the 4th round. Fulton caught Inoue on the minute mark to give him a little to think about. However, Fulton would continually find himself in range but would offer no attack back. A combination landed with 45 seconds left that drew blood from the nose of Fulton. Inoue stalked the American until the bell.
At 4-0 on most scorecards, Fulton had to do something. He was being outboxed, out worked and it was starting to get beaten up. Inoue landed a left to the body followed by a right hand to the head in the first 20 seconds of round 5. Fulton did land a nice combination in the opening minute, but it was followed by two good right hands separated by 10 seconds. Another Inoue right hand landed with a minute to play, ending the round on the front foot controlling him with his jab. It was Fulton’s best round, but was still far away from giving Inoue a challenge.
Round 6 started a little slower. Inoue’s jab was landing at times, a left hook ripped the body of Fulton at the halfway stage. Inoue jumped forward with a big right hand that brought a roar from the crowd. Another four punch combination gave Fulton all sorts of problems inside a minute and was slightly buzzed from a right hand with 20 seconds to go. Fulton came back aggressively to close out the round, but Inoue came out on top.
The halfway stage had Fulton losing every round. Inoue was making it look easy. However, Fulton landed a right hand, but it was responded to immediately in the 7th round. Fulton had some snippets of success, but this was the Inoue show. The speed in which he closed the distance, the four punch combinations and double jab had Fulton’s mind and body exhausted.
Inoue came charging forward with a jab to the body to open round 8. A big right hand landed inside the opening 60 seconds that sent Fulton to the canvass. He got to his feet but Inoue was on him like a rash, he was determined to get the knockout. A gluttony of shots to the head had Fulton pinned in the corner with nowhere to go. The referee jumped in at 1 minute and 14 seconds into the round to give Fulton a first career defeat.
Inoue’s impressive streak continues improving his record to 25-0 (22 KOs), a sixth knockout victory in a row that saw Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire and Paul Butler all fall at the hands of The Monster. Fulton’s record moves to 21-1 (8 KOs).