By Brian Webber: Naoya Inoue will be moving up to 122 to challenge WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton on May 7 live on ESPN+ at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan.
The undefeated 29-year-old Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), nicknamed the ‘Monster’ due to how he devastates his opposition, will be seeking his fourth division world title against arguably the best fighter in the super bantamweight division in undefeated WBC/WBO champion Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs).
Fulton, 28, has wanted to take on Inoue for some time, and he believes he’s got the size, length, and boxing ability to hand his slightly shorter opponent his first career defeat.
Is Fulton too big & skilled for Inoue?
Fulton will be on the road for this fight, competing on foreign soil trying to hold onto his WBC & WBO 122-lb belts against the pound-for-pound star Inoue.
The naturally bigger Philadelphia native Fulton is coming off two of the biggest wins of his nine-year professional career against Danny Roman and Brandon Figueroa.
Fulton proved in those two fights that he’s got skills and toughness to handle the grueling style of Roman and Figueroa. It’s safe to say that if Inoue fails to knock out Fulton, he could be in for a really tough fight that will be taxing physically.
There’s still no word yet about the starting time of the Inoue vs. Fulton fight that will be streamed into the U.S. on ESPN+, but that should be announced shortly.
Inoue recently vacated his four bantamweight titles after becoming the undisputed champion in the 118-lb weight class last December with an 11th-round knockout of WBO champion Paul Butler in Tokyo, Japan.
It makes sense for Inoue to move up to super bantamweight because there was no one else for him to fight in the 118-lb weight class that would have grabbed the attention of the boxing public after his win over Nonito Donaire last June.
It was a reach for Inoue to stay at bantamweight for the final fight for the undisputed championship against Paul Butler because he was such a lackluster opponent who spent the entire battle running around the ring in survival mode.
What will be interesting to see is if Inoue will choose to move up to featherweight if he accomplishes his goal of becoming the undisputed champion at super bantamweight.
There are several beatable champions at 126 that Inoue could potentially defeat, but it would involve him taking more punishment than what he’s become accustomed to.
It’s believed that Inoue will stay at super bantamweight, however, rather than attempt to mix it up with the 126-pounders like the hard-hitting Mauricio Lara.