Steph Fulton travels to Japan as he attempts to topple ‘The Monster’, While back in America, two of the best fighters on the planet finally meet to settle once and for all who is the king of the welterweight division.
What a fantastic year for boxing 2023 has been. As fans of the sport, we have already been treated to stunning contests between Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko; Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia; Teofimo Lopez and Josh Taylor as well as a number of other fantastic bouts.
2023 seems to be attempting to dispel the notion that the top names in the sport refuse to fight each other, and while the heavyweight division continues to disappoint, it is once again the lighter weight classes which are stepping up.
25th July: Naoya Inoue vs Stephen Fulton (WBC & WBO Super Bantamweight World Title Fight).
Kicking off the week of boxing sent straight down from heaven, is the battle between two undefeated superstars. Stephen Fulton, 21-0 (8kos), travels to Japan as he attempts to retain his WBC and WBO super-bantamweight titles against arguably the best fighter in the sport, Naoya Inoue, 24-0 (21kos).
Very rarely does it happen that a Champion travels to a challenger’s country to defend their titles. But such is the draw of ‘The Monster’ Naoya Inoue in Japan, that Fulton has little choice.
Inoue will be moving up to his fourth weight division, and will be looking to join an elite list of fighters to have won world titles in four weight classes.
Despite winning titles as light-flyweight and super-flyweight, it was only once he moved up to bantamweight that Inoue began to reach his full potential and announced himself to the boxing world.
En route to becoming undisputed bantamweight champion, Inoue knocked out every fighter he fought, solidifying his stance as one of the hardest punchers in the sport.
As well as possessing immense power, Inoue also has great speed and accuracy. His shot selection is second to none and the majority of knockouts come via body punches, it will be fascinating to see whether his power carries through to the bigger weight classes.
Fulton, on the other hand, has had a much quieter rise to success. With the large number of quality fighters in America, Fulton’s rise to the top was perhaps missed by a large number of fight fans, but with victory over Inoue, Fulton will be hoping to endear himself to American boxing fans.
But what chance does he have against ‘The Monster’?
Well, despite being the bigger man, Fulton does find himself as an underdog for this fight. Perhaps because it is taking place in Japan, but also because of the style of both fighters.
While Fulton is an exceptional boxing technician, possessing great speed and movement, it is believed by many that he doesn’t possess the power to keep Inoue at bay. The pair’s styles match fantastically and it should make a fascinating fight, but while I expect Fulton’s speed to give him some early success, Inoue’s relentless pressure and power will eventually wear Fulton down and I believe Inoue will get a late stoppage around rounds 9 or 10.
Unfortunately, this super-fight has come under a cloud of controversy in recent days, due to the accusations of cheating from Fulton’s camp towards Inoue.
Fulton’s Head Coach, Wahid Rahim, has accused Inoue and his team of ‘stacking.’ This is the process of using an excessive amount of tape to wrap a fighter’s hands, eventually creating a cast effect, and making a fighter’s punches more powerful.
Whilst illegal in some boxing federations, in Japan, and in some American states, the practise of stacking is completely legal, and Fulton and his team know this.
The recent accusations are nothing more than a smear job, used in an attempt to discredit Inoue’s power and distract him from the upcoming bout.
It seems like the move of a scared camp who believe that the writing could be on the wall for their fighter.
29th July: Errol Spence Jr vs Terrence Crawford (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF Welterweight undisputed fight).
It’s finally here.
The fight that boxing fans have been praying for for years.
Errol Spence Jr vs Terrence Crawford for the undisputed welterweight world championship.
I know, I myself can barely believe that we are finally being treated to this incredible spectacle. The magnitude of this fight can simply not be overstated. Yes, if you are being picky, it probably would’ve been preferred a few years ago but beggars can’t be choosers.
Errol Spence Jr and Terrence Crawford have both occupied the Ring pound-for-pound rankings for years, as well as the same weight division since 2018, and the debate has always raged on as to who was better between the two.
Both blessed with everything you could need as a fighter, speed, power, endurance, vast shot selection, exemplary technique, this is bound to be one of the greatest fights of all time, reminiscent of the battles of the four kings in the 1980s.
Not much more can be said about the two fighters, other than that they are exceptional.
Terrence Crawford, 39-0 (30kos), is already a three-weight world champion, having captured titles at lightweight, before becoming undisputed champion at super-lightweight. Since moving up to welterweight, Crawford has shown that he is more than just a superb technician, winning every fight via knockout.
Spence, 28-0 (22kos), announced himself to the boxing world when he travelled to Sheffield in 2017 and comprehensively dismantled Kell Brook to claim the IBF welterweight title. Since then, Spence has also claimed the WBC and WBA welterweight titles and will hope to add Crawford’s WBO title to his collection.
In terms of picking a winner, Crawford narrowly trumps Spence in speed, footwork, and overall technical ability, being able to switch between orthodox and southpaw at will, but comes into the fight as the smaller man.
Spence is obviously an exceptional technician himself, and will be hoping that his size and power can give him an edge against Crawford, keeping him at a distance and picking him off when he comes into range.
The exceptional thing about this fight is that in the areas that one fighter is seen as superior, it only takes a second glance to note that this advantage is minimal. Both have a knockout percentage of over 75%, both are undefeated, both are fast and have exceptional chins, there really is very little between them.
My only concern for the bout could be how well Spence can make weight. If he struggles, then Crawford’s speed and endurance may cause an issue for Spence. If Spence is fully fit, which I expect him to be, then there really is no clear way of telling who will win this fight.
It will likely come down to a highly disputed, razor thin decision, or a flash knockout towards the end of the bout. On recent performances I may slightly give the edge to Crawford, but expect Spence to bring his absolute best to this career defining fight.
The attitudes of the two fighters have been incredibly respectful in the build-up to the fight. It seems that both respect the talent of the other, and realise that this fight isn’t going to need any big pre-fight bust ups to sell. The talent sells itself.
Unfortunately for UK viewers the fight will take place early on Sunday Morning, but if you can manage to stay up, I implore you to find a way to watch this once in a generation super fight.