Former world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue has recovered from his hand injury and has rescheduled his ambitious move up to junior featherweight where he will challenge WBC / WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton. The new date and venue for the super bout is July 25th at Ariake Arena in Koto-Ku, Japan. Originally both warriors were going to clash on May 7th but due to Inoue’s injury to one of his fists, it had to be postponed.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) 19-0 with 17 knockouts in world title fights, a championship streak that began in 2014 when he knocked out Adrián Hernández for the WBC 108-pound title. He then went on to the super flyweight division where he won a title and then made seven title defenses, including a second-round knockout of Omar Narváez. At bantamweight, Inoue became the division’s first undisputed champion in half a century, defeating Emmanuel Rodríguez in two rounds to win the IBF belt, beating Nonito Donaire in the 2019 Fight of the Year to add the IBF belt, defeating Donaire in the second round in their June 2022 rematch to wrest the WBC title from him and dominating then-WBO champion Paul Butler.
Inoue vacated all four bantamweight titles to move up four pounds for a chance to conquer new horizons.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) turned pro in 2014 and defeated five undefeated boxers in his first twelve bouts. In January 2021, he defeated Angelo Leo to capture the WBO 122-pound title. Ten months later, he added the WBC belt to his collection with a majority decision over then-undefeated Brandon Figueroa in one of the most action-packed championship match-ups of the year. Fulton defended both titles last June with a unanimous decision over former unified world champion Daniel Roman. Fulton will enter the Inoue fight, his first outside of American soil, after an 11-month layoff.
March 22, 2023: Former world bantamweight champion Naoya "Monster" Inoue has suffered a training injury and will have to postpone his plans to challenge two-belt super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton, which was scheduled to take place in Japan on May 7th. ESPN first reported the injury. As translated by the Sporting News, Inoue said, "I am writing to inform you that the title match scheduled for May 7th will (be postponed) due to a fist injury sustained during training. I apologize to all parties involved and to Fulton and his associates for any inconvenience this may cause. I am also very sorry to the fans who have been looking forward to the match. I have decided that it will be extremely difficult for me to enter the ring in perfect condition [on May 7th]. It was a difficult decision to make, but we have come to this decision. First of all, I will work hard to recover from my injury so that I can enter the ring in perfect condition. Then, I will make my best preparations so that I can present an exciting match to all the fans. I would be happy if you could look forward to that fight." No make-up date has been provided yet.
PRIOR BOXINGTALK COVERAGE
MARCH 6, 2023: Naoya “Monster” Inoue conquered the bantamweight division. He’s now moving up in weight to capture the biggest fish at 122 pounds. WBC / WBO junior featherweight champion Stephen Fulton (pictured) will defend his titles against Japan’s pound-for-pound king Sunday, May 7th, at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. The showdown pits two of the world’s top fighters, as Inoue aims to become only the fifth Asian boxer to win world titles in four weight classes.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) is 19-0 with 17 knockouts in world title fights, a championship run that started in 2014 when he knocked out Adrian Hernandez for the WBC light flyweight world title. He went on to rule the junior bantamweight division with seven title defenses, including a second-round stoppage over Omar Narvaez. At bantamweight, Inoue became the division’s first undisputed champion in a half-century, stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds to win the IBF strap, outlasting Nonito Donaire in the 2019 Fight of the Year to add the WBA belt, starching Donaire in the second round of their June 2022 rematch to snatch the WBC title, and stopping then-WBO champion Paul Butler in the 11th round. Inoue vacated all four bantamweight titles to move up four pounds for a shot at “Cool Boy Steph.”
From Philadelphia, Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) turned pro in 2014 and defeated five undefeated prospects in his first 12 bouts. In January 2021, he defeated Angelo Leo to capture the WBO junior featherweight world title. Ten months later, he added the WBC belt to his collection with a majority decision over then-unbeaten Brandon Figueroa in one of the year’s most action-packed championship showdowns. Fulton defended both titles last June with a one-sided unanimous decision over former unified world champion Daniel Roman. Fulton will enter the Inoue bout, his first away from American soil, coming off an 11-month layoff. The 28-year-old Fulton, however, is the naturally bigger man, holding advantages in height and reach.
JAN. 18, 2023: The WBO has released its rankings for January 2023 and there is a new contender atop its 122-pound listings. Just days after he vacated his four title belts, former undisputed world bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (pictured) is now the WBO's #1 ranked super bantamweight contender. The champion is Stephen Fulton, who also reigns at the WBC champion. Dropped to the #2 spot is Ra'eese Aleem, who has already expressed an interest in fighting Inoue.
JAN. 13, 2023: World 118-pound champion Naoya Inoue announced that he will make the jump to the super bantamweight division in his next fight and therefore will vacate his 118-pound titles. Inoue held all four major titles, which means his announcement will create championship opportunities for up to eight bantamweights. The WBA reports that at a press conference held in Yokohama, Japan, "Monster" Inoue told the press that he will be looking for new challenges in his career after having dominated the bantamweight division. The 29 year-old Japanese star stressed that he is in the process of adapting to his new weight and that he is already looking for the best opponents in the category to face them.