Naoya Inoue stops Stephen Fulton, wins world titles in his 4th weight class
TOKYO— Naoya Inoue became a world champion in his fourth weight class Tuesday night when he stopped Stephen Fulton in the eighth round to claim the WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles.
Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) made an impressive debut at 122 pounds with a dominant performance against the previously unbeaten Fulton (21-1) at Ariake Arena. Fulton had held both of his belts since 2021 and was considered the top fighter in the division.
The Japanese star knocked down Fulton in the opening minute of the eighth round with a big left hand after stunning him with a body jab and a punishing right. Inoue finished moments later, pummeling Fulton with punches in the corner to force the referee to halt the bout.
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“I’m very disappointed in myself and my performance,” Fulton told reporters after the fight, but added that he “doesn’t feel bad”.
“He was a great fighter — that’s why he got to win today,” the American said of his opponent.
The 30-year-old Inoue improved to 20-0 in world title fights with a whopping 18 stoppages, improving his standing as one of the world’s top pound-for-pound boxers.
Inoue held all four major belts at 118 pounds after beating Paul Butler last December, prompting him to move up to challenge Fulton. Their bout initially was scheduled for May 7, but Inoue injured his hand in training camp, forcing a 2 1/2-month delay.
“Everything I was thinking about was to fight him this year,” Inoue said through an interpreter. “However, unfortunately, I got injured, and I had to postpone this fight. I am sorry to my team and Fulton’s team, but thank you so much for accepting this fight once again. I am so happy right now.”
Inoue took charge against Fulton with his superior speed and relentless jab from the first round onward, dominating the early rounds. The American fought back more effectively in the middle rounds, but Inoue’s advantages became insurmountable before he put together yet another highlight-reel finish.
Inoue has been unstoppable in his pro career, which began with a 108-pound world title victory in only his sixth professional fight. He became a 115-pound champion in 2014, and he reigned in that division until 2018, when he became a bantamweight champion.
In the super-bantamweight division, I think I can grow even stronger,” Inoue told a roaring crowd at the Ariake Arena after the fight.
“But I only hold two belts now — my goal is to unify all the four super-bantamweight titles.”
Marlon Tapales of the Philippines holds the WBA and IBF super bantamweight belts after beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev by split decision last April in San Antonio.
Tapales was at the fight and afterward declared his intention to take on Inoue “to prove (to) myself that I’m champion”.
It was just the latest boxing feat by the fierce-punching Inoue, who with his December knock-out win over Butler became only the ninth undisputed world champion since the four-belt era began in 2004.
Last year, Inoue also became the first Japanese boxer to top Ring Magazine’s prestigious pound-for-pound rankings as the best fighter across all weight divisions.
Fulton’s last fight was a unanimous points decision win over Daniel Roman in June last year.
On the undercard, Robeisy Ramirez retained his WBO featherweight title with a fifth-round stoppage victory over Satoshi Shimizu.