After an enormous week of boxing, today’s words were always going to focus on events in Tokyo and Las Vegas over the past five days. As Stephen Fulton vs. Naoya Inoue, Ariake Arena, Tokyo, July 25, 2023 and Errol Spence vs. Terence Crawford, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, July 29, 2023 played out, it quickly became clear that a tip of the hat towards two modern day greats would be necessary.
In his first fight at super bantamweight, Naoya “The Monster” Inoue looked made to dominate the 122 pound weight class as he wiped the floor with unified title holder Stephen Fulton.
It was Fulton’s first career defeat – the TKO 8 he suffered at Inoue’s hands was a one sided massacre. A great fighter dominated a very good one.
In Vegas on Saturday night, Terence “Bud” Crawford became the undisputed welterweight champion as he handed Errol Spence a finely crafted beating.
Crawford’s elegantly tuned skills were too much for Spence, who is an exceptional fighter in his own right.
By the time the bout was stopped in the ninth round, Crawford had complete control. Spence was broken down and in danger of being very badly hurt.
Between them, Inoue and Crawford have received just about as many plaudits from boxing pundits this week as Jimmy Lennon Jr. banked air miles – the silky smooth ring announcer KO’d jet lag to be on duty in Tokyo and Las Vegas. Nice work if you can get it.
All the good words written and said about the week’s two winners have been fully warranted. Here’s a slightly closer look at how the wins were achieved.
The Monster Brings Too Much Heat For “Cool Boy” Fulton
Momentum is important. On Tuesday evening in Tokyo, Inoue seized the initiative against Fulton from the first bell, and never relinquished it.
The challenger was a bundle of energy as he nimbly got into position to land leather on the champion, before avoiding any return fire. Often once Fulton had fired and missed he found himself being tagged by counters from Inoue.
The key punch in this fight was Inoue’s jab to the body. As well as slowly breaking Fulton’s will, it conditioned him to gradually lower his guard as the fight progressed.
Inoue used his speed advantage to land his body jabs which saw him completely dictate the tempo of the fight. Fulton was always reacting to what Inoue was doing. It was a position that was alien to Fulton – he is normally the fighter in control, dominating with his tone setting jab and world class footwork.
The footwork battle was also dominated by Inoue.
Fulton was strangely static in the early stages and by the time he did start to move laterally to find a foothold in the fight Inoue had him figured out. The home fighter moved forward at unconventional angles, preventing Fulton from moving out of the Monster’s danger zone.
It was a controlled performance from beginning to end. By the time Inoue had floored Fulton with a right hand which was thrown after yet another jab to the body had brought Fulton’s guard down, the soon to be former champion was bloodied and confused.
Fulton bravely got up to continue the fight but as Inoue unloaded unanswered punches the referee stepped in to end the contest.
It crowned Inoue as a four weight world champion.
A potential fight against the other unified champion in the 122 pound division, Marlon Tapales, in November or December was teased after the fight, with Tapales in attendance.
A win there and “The Monster” would become undisputed champion in his second weight class.
Honestly, “Bud” Crawford Turned T-Mobile Arena Into His Own Operating Theatre
Based on the eye test, many of us boxing observers felt that Terence Crawford would be too much for Errol Spence when they met for the undisputed welterweight title on July 29.
That was the way it went as Spence discovered the hard way that Crawford backers were speaking “The Truth.”
After having a look and conceding the opening session on the cards, Crawford went to work.
Boxing out of the southpaw stance against a fellow lefty was the foundation of switch-hitting Crawford’s win.
From round two on, anytime Spence tried to establish his jab, he was met with a swift left hand counter from Crawford. It has to be noted that Bud’s timing was absolutely exceptional when countering Spence’s jab.
Unified champion Spence was floored for the first time in his career as Crawford countered his jab beautifully with a left, followed with a quick right which made sure Spence hit the floor. It was a flash knockdown but it was a sensational early breakthrough for Crawford.
After this, Crawford put his jab to work. As a right handed person fighting out of the southpaw stance, his lead hand was no range finder. It was used with bad intentions.
Mike Tyson, sitting ringside, remarked that Crawford’s jab was “a battering ram,” and that was the perfect way to describe it.
Crawford was already in the ascendancy, his jab allowed him to stop any advances from Spence in their tracks.
Crawford fought with clinical precision, barely wasting a punch. When Spence overcommitted or made the smallest of errors, Terence punished him.
By round seven, things were looking grim for Spence as, try as he might, he couldn’t dent Crawford’s defense.
Spence was also being beaten up – something which showed on his ever reddening face.
Chopping right hands from Crawford had Spence down twice in the seventh session. Trying to get in close, Spence left himself open to a short counter, Crawford’s right hand connected behind the Texan’s ear and the referee had to administer his second mandatory eight count of the night.
If it wasn’t already, the fight was over at this point. As if to emphasise this, Crawford floored Spence again at the end of the round – this time Crawford was advancing and his double right hook secured him a 10-7 round on the cards.
Not that the cards would be needed. Spence was in bad shape and on shaky legs as Crawford landed several shots on his rival’s bloody face in the ninth round.
Spence’s corner could have pulled him out of the fight earlier, but it was up to referee Harvey Dock to step in and call a halt to the punishing beatdown. Crawford’s surgical deconstruction of Spence was complete.
With his win, Crawford became the first male boxer to become undisputed champion in two weight classes in the (grits teeth) “four-belt era.”
Pound-For-Pound Implications And Hard-Hitting Finish
As long as the fight is made against Tapales, Inoue will be expected to match Crawford’s double undisputed achievement before we say sayonara to 2023.
Furthermore, the two winners from this week are also being linked by talking heads debating who deserves to sit at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.
For me, someone who doesn’t really care about such things, I’d have them both number one, or 1 and 1A.
From what I’ve seen on social media since “Bud” was covered in welterweight belts, the consensus is it is Crawford who is number 1 with Inoue a close second on most observers' P4P lists.
And that’s fine. It’s not worth getting into a time consuming argument over.
In preparing for Spence vs. Crawford I wrote a short piece which looked at past all-American welterweight battles. I was trying to offer some historical context for the bout within the 147 pound weight class.
It was a fun piece to write and it was also a pleasure to briefly put some words on the page about all time greats Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Leonard.
In sharing the piece with a friend I remarked that I would have loved to have been around to see and cover Robinson and Armstrong in person.
Later in the day, that comment returned to me and I realised that, had that been the case, I wouldn’t be here today to witness Inoue and Crawford and their talents.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that in Inoue and Crawford we have our own all-time greats to enjoy in the modern era. They might not fight as often as the fighters in the 1930s and 1940s did, but that means when they do box it is absolutely not to be missed.
With Inoue and Crawford setting a high bar for all boxers in this generation, they are making their own way into future conversations about where they stand among boxing’s best of all time.
It doesn’t matter who you regard as top of your own personal P4P list, let’s all just enjoy watching these two boxers demonstrate their marvelous skills for as long as they continue in the sport.