Naoya Inoue vs Stephen Fulton Prediction Panel Special



Naoya Inoue vs Stephen Fulton Prediction Panel Special
Weigh in mood, photo by Naoki Fukuda

We are less than 24 hours away from what could be one of the fights of the year.  A potential classic is upon us as Stephen Fulton has journeyed from Philadelphia to Japan to defend his WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles against home favourite Naoya Inoue aka “Monster.”

With Inoue contesting his first bout at 122 pounds after becoming undisputed at 118 last year, this matchup is fascinating in many ways.

Both fighters are in their prime. Naoya Inoue will be taking part in his 20th consecutive world title fight; Fulton faces a fifth undefeated fighter in six bouts in what will be his second defence of his unified crown.

Stephen Fulton vs. Naoya Inoue

The NYF PP leans heavy to Naoya Inoue!

Can the 24-0, 21 KOs Japanese fighter send the Ariake Arena crowd out into the Tokyo night happy by demonstrating his power and skills will dominate at super bantamweight?

Will Fulton, 21-0, 8 KOs, utilize his fine boxing skills and be able to blunt the precision and power of Inoue for 12 rounds?

These are the questions we have as two of boxing's best are about to fight for supremacy in the super bantamweight division.

Reports indicate that the main event will begin around 8am ET/1pm BST but I’d recommend being in your favourite armchair with a beverage of choice at least 30 minutes prior to that. ESPN+ will broadcast in America while Sky Sports will do likewise in the UK and Ireland.

The scene is set. All that is left to do is hand this one over to the panel of NY FIGHTS writers and friends of the site so they can share their thoughts on how Fulton vs. Inoue may play out.

Out Of The Blocks With Some Picks For Inoue

Michael Woods, NYF founder/Editor-in-Chief: I like a good Monster movie. Ok, I did when I was 10. Godzilla had anger management issues, I could identify. I admired his directness in expressing his feelings about what a shit job humans do running their show, and the intensity of his activist efforts.

I see this movie franchise staying fertile – the Monster at 122, as effective as he was at 118. This is a levels fight, win in fine fashion here means proper respect from fan and pundit classes for Naoya Inoue.

That's my guess. Tight rounds, Fulton a throwback type who is fully world class. Inoue is a tier up from that. Monster UD by four plus round margin.

Stephen Fulton vs Naoya Inoue, they pose at the final pre-fight press conference Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue pose at the final pre-fight press conference Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. It's just about GO TIME! Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Gayle Falkenthal, NYF West Coast Bureau Chief: American Stephen “Cool Boy” Fulton is betting big on himself, stepping up to take on top pound-for-pound champion Naoya Inoue of Japan on enemy turf.

Few have posed a serious threat to Inoue as he vanquishes opponents with the authority of a flamethrower. Fulton has the tools to be competitive. He's confident in his movement, defense and punch selection. He can box all day. But can he steer clear of Inoue's equally impressive skills on top of his authoritative power for 12 full rounds?

Even if Fulton ends on his feet, he'd need to win nine or ten rounds definitively to get a decision, meaning the only assurance of a win is to knock Inoue out. It would be a massive upset and it's not happening.

We'll credit Fulton to survive but lose a decision to The Monster – and earn big respect in doing so. This bout will challenge Spence vs. Crawford as the top bout of a blockbuster week of boxing. Fans in America, set your alarm clock and put the coffee on. You want to see this one live.

Colin Morrison, NYF UK Editor: Both fighters are outstanding and both can win. I believe that Naoya Inoue needs to get Fulton into the trenches in order to prevail.

I think that this will happen gradually as an absorbing fight unfolds. Look for momentum swings and tactical adjustments as the skill level of both fighters captivates the audience.

Strap in for a distance fight too. I think Inoue will win by stoppage, but the stoppage won’t arrive until the final minute of round 12. Thanks for making this fight lads, and all the best to you both.

Ed Odeven, Sports Editor SportsLook at Japan-Forward/NY Fights contributor: Which pugilist will deliver the best synchronized effort with their feet and their hands?

Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton have impressed with their overall speed and lateral movement and precise punching (comparable to the difficulty of threading a needle again and again while blindfolded) in recent years.

Clearly both men have reached this stage of their careers without taking any shortcuts. Yes, Inoue has had considerably greater success as a knockout artist, 87.5% to Fulton’s 38.1%. And yes, Fulton hasn’t earned a knockout victory since dropping Isaac Avelar to the canvas in August 2019.

What’s also true is that Fulton’s 3-inch reach advantage isn’t insignificant, and it will help the Philadelphia fighter amass wins in a few rounds. But Inoue is a complete fighter with a preternatural ability to find holes in any opponent’s defense. Inoue will land combinations, he will impress the fans as well as those with ringside scorecards.

Both men are capable of knocking down the other (and I’d be surprised if there are no knockdowns), but my gut feeling is that Inoue’s overall excellence will shine through with a split decision.

WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton defends his titles against Naoya Inoue, who is moving up a division. Photo: Naoki Fukuda

WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton says Inoue's power isn't all that. We shall soon see…. Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Praise For The Matchup, And More Inoue Picks

Tommy Rainone, professional boxer/writer: Great matchup on paper which will most likely translate to in the ring. I see Inoue struggling with Fulton's slick style early before beginning to break down the American with body shots, making him a more stationary target.

Fulton is the bigger man but only has eight career knockouts in 21 fights. Most of those KOs came during his novice days of four and six rounders.

Naoya Inoue will not have to look for Fulton as the Philadelphia fighter is not shy about trading punches and fighting at close range. I expect a close fight with many swing rounds but unless Fulton has a strict gameplan of boxing and moving I see Inoue pulling away with the fight late on, on his way to a decision victory or a late stoppage.

James Lupton, founder SlothBoxx YouTube channel, writer: Firstly, what a fight! It's fantastic to see boxing get some seriously great matchups come to fruition after we've seen so many talk the talk but not walk the walk.

Let's commend the size of the bollocks on Fulton for heading out to Japan to face one of the P4P greats. Let's also applaud Naoya Inoue for moving up in weight and choosing to face one of the slickest, finest, boxers in the division.

I'd make Naoya Inoue the favourite heading into the fight as he has the accuracy and precision of a Yumi and possesses real dynamite inside those gloves. Fulton has never been tested against anyone of Inoue's calibre but the same could be said for the man from Japan.

I predict, after a cagey opener, Fulton to rack up a few early rounds before Inoue breaks down the American, dropping him late to force a referee's stoppage with Fulton's stock rising in defeat.

Rhys McCole, Former Scottish Amateur boxing champion, current boxing coach: This is an excellent contest. Many are saying it will be Inoue's toughest test. Both are clearly talented and gifted boxers. Both undefeated so someone's 0 has got to go.

I see this being a brutal fight, with plenty of power punches landed. I think that Inoue will be victorious, he has freakish power. I'm going for Inoue via stoppage.

Matthew Pomara, NYF Long Island Correspondent: The boxing renaissance continues when “The Monster” Naoya Inoue moves up to super bantamweight to take on Stephen Fulton with a unique (in America) Tuesday morning start time. This promises to be a great matchup.

The biggest single determining question and factor in the fight is if Inoue's power can translate to the higher weight class. If it does, it will be a rough night for Fulton, if it does not, then Fulton will outbox Inoue and run him around the ring.

Prediction: Naoya Inoue will close the gap and his power will be enough to carry the day. Inoue by a punishing unanimous decision.

Naoya Inoue says moving up a division to fight Stephen Fulton has given him "great motivation." Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Naoya Inoue says moving up a division to fight Stephen Fulton has given him “great motivation.” Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Questions For Inoue To Answer, More Picks For The Home Fighter

David Friend, Johannesburg based boxing observer: Fulton vs. Inoue. A clash of two little big men. I see this as simply a case of how Inoue adapts to the 122lb weight class. If he isn't at a huge size disadvantage and can close the gap to Fulton, he will win a hard fought decision. Fulton will need to try and keep him at a distance but I don't think he can. Inoue by UD.

Scott Murray, owner BarSport/UK boxing promoter: It’s a very exciting title fight, and Stephen Fulton has a chance to possibly win on points over the 12 rounds. However, I think the sheer power of Naoya Inoue, not to mention his incredible boxing skills will be too much for the talented Fulton.

“The Monster” to win by stoppage by round five or six.

Matt Andrzejewski, Boxing Columnist: I am really torn on this one. Fulton has to fight a perfect fight to win but has the style to beat Inoue. Fulton is a boxer-puncher with speed and skill that can exploit Inoue's defensive flaws.

On the flip side, Inoue is the hardest puncher in my opinion since Naseem Hamed and it just takes one. I see Fulton winning the first six rounds and then Naoya Inoue knocking him out cold in the seventh.

Hector Franco, NYF Columnist: Naoya Inoue has been a terror throughout the super flyweight and bantamweight divisions.

However, has Inoue ever really been tested?

The Japanese phenom's two bouts with Nonito Donaire, specifically the first match in 2019, qualify as the only time Inoue was challenged. Regardless of why they didn't occur, Inoue never faced his contemporaries at super flyweight, such as Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada.

Maybe he would have been too big for them, but he was content fighting on the same cards instead of stepping in the ring with them.

Inoue's opponent, unified super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton, has been dismissive of his foe's skillset – deeming it to be nothing more than a mirage of power. But, one often needs to remember correct punch placement and punch technique is the key to developing power.

Stephen Fulton said he had to engage with Brandon Figueroa to be most effective. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing Fulton Edges Figueroa

Stephen Fulton v Brandon Figueroa. Can Fulton handle the Inoue power, or will that power be less at 122? Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

The move from bantamweight to super bantamweight has been a mixed bag. We've seen all-time great fighters like Mexican power-punching king Carlos Zarate fail to capture a title at 122 pounds, losing to Wilfredo Gomez. And we've seen Junior Jones move up and essentially stop Marco Antonio Barrera. The difference is Jones took fights at 122 and above before facing Barrera.

Where will Inoue fall? In his home country and the most significant test of his career, I see Inoue getting a stoppage in the mid to late rounds.

Paolo Vega, our man in Barranquilla: This is another great fight in this awesome boxing year.

Fulton, the reigning champion and the man at 122, facing Inoue, the Monster, three division world champion and arguably top three on any respectable pound-for-pound list.

Props to both guys for taking this kind of risk – Fulton putting his titles on the line in the land of the rising sun and Inoue going up to a new weight class and fighting the top fighter straight away.

Inoue is the man with power on his side. Fulton has the crafty boxing style. Inoue is not just power. Most of his victories have been built with the use of high boxing abilities. He really is one of the best in the business.

The fight is now sparked with some rumors and observations from Fulton's team regarding Inoue's hand-wraps. I think this is part of some cerebral game by Fulton's camp. I think they are trying to gain some leverage on foreign soil.

I think the fight will begin with Fulton trying to avoid engaging too much with Inoue. However as the rounds pass, Inoue's skills and power will start to make some noise on Fulton's boxing skills. This will be a close and very competitive match but Inoue will get the edge in the closest rounds with his activity and power shots.

I think a KO can't be discounted in this scrap. If this happens I think it will be Naoya Inoue who makes it happen, but any KO will arrive late in the fight. Inoue to win.

One Lone Pick For Fulton

Tim Brown, Tennessee based sports investor, boxing ace: I'm excited for the exposure “Cool Boy Steph” vs. “Monster” Inoue brings to boxing worldwide. There are variables and more importantly levels that are not visible to the naked eye that will become crystal clear when these two get in the ring.

In my opinion the world is about to learn, without a shadow of a doubt, of the greatness that is Stephen “Cool Boy” Fulton. I'm investing in Fulton for the upset.

I believe Fulton has already fought his toughest fight when he overcame a tough phone booth scrap with the hard hitting Brandon Figueroa.

Stephen Fulton will fight Naoya Inoue July 25

Tim Brown, the lone voice in the pack, likes Fulton to show his true worth in Japan

The only way “The Monster” wins this is if he sparks Fulton out, and, despite Fulton's inactivity, I just can't see that happening to a prime Stephen Fulton.

Stephen Fulton to outbox Naoya Inoue and win via decision.

Final TallyInoue 13, Fulton 1

The lop-sided nature of this has surprised me slightly. It reminds me of another outlet whose panel before Josh Taylor took on Teofimo Lopez all had Taylor winning. We know what happened there.

Thanks for reading, and thanks also to the panel for all their considered comments.

We all know anything can happen in the ring. The outcome is to be determined; what isn’t in doubt is the quality of this matchup. Tuesday can’t get here quickly enough!

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.