Stephen Fulton vs. Naoya Inoue has a throwback vibe attached to it. Even the early weekday schedule on a Tuesday evokes memories of yesteryear when “Super Fights” didn’t always have to be staged on a Saturday. To say we have a game of high-speed chess taking place in the ring this Tuesday is not an overstatement.
It’s probably safe to add the term turbo to it. I like to call these types of pairings “skill-fests” where both boxers are ultra-talented, and one has to wait to see certain items in the ring to find out who’s better at such and such. This battle of wits and skill will be streaming live in the early morning in the States on ESPN+.
Let us start with the most fundamental punch of all, and of course, we’re talking about the jab. Stephen Fulton’s jab is generally timed well with speed, thrown in a variety of ways. Speaking of variety, Naoya Inoue loves to target his jab to the head and body, and it, too, has great speed with more power behind it.
Inoue also does a great job fainting with his jab to set up a right hand or his nasty left hook. Since the word power got brought up, we might as well address the assumed advantage that most believe will favor Inoue.
He truly has one-punch power in both hands, especially the straight right hand and, of course, the special left hook. The only caution we should take not fully knowing if Naoya’s power will carry up to yet another weight division. Sure, we can assume it will, but to be factual, we actually don’t know it 100 percent.
Inoue does a great job of changing levels before he throws his right hand lead or counter. He is also very capable of countering or leading with a left hook.
As we know, his left hook to the body or head is his best weapon. Inoue’s defense consists of quick stepbacks and upper-body movement.
When Inoue is coming forward, he tends to employ a high guard. Inoue does get caught clean in the high guard, and at times, he moves in straight lines stepping back or on his way inside. Inoue is a solid inside fighter but generally needs space to unleash his best weaponry.
Let’s go now to the Philadelphia native Stephen Fulton, who will be on the road in Japan versus a full-fledged star hence the fight taking place over there. Stephen Fulton has already proved he can earn a decision in multiple fashions.
Fulton out-brawled a dude in Brandon Figueroa who lives in the trenches. That said, he made that bout more difficult than it should’ve been. In his last outing against Danny Roman, Fulton dominated the boxer at his own game and almost put the cherry on top as he attempted to close the show.
Both guys love to get payback quickly after getting hit flush, so let’s see which fighter pays the price in those moments. Up close, Fulton does an effective job of clearing space with his elbow and shoulders to land short, clean punches. Fulton is very comfortable establishing the jab and moving around the ring on the outside, making for a tough target to hit.
Alright, the time has come to break down how this battle of high-level boxers will play out in the squared circle. Fulton will look to be on the move in the early rounds, scoring points with the jab and pot shots with the right hand or left hook.
Turning Inoue into the aggressor is the best way to fight for Stephen, at least in the beginning of the fight. Footwork with speed is a trait both men have, and that’s something this boxing podcaster believes will have to see in the ring to know for certain who’s better.
Inoue defiantly can box on the outside or in the center of the ring. However, this boxing junkie thinks the better skills on the move, maybe because we’ve seen it so much, is Fulton.
Only boxing on the outside won’t be enough to win for Fulton. At times, he will have to get his hands dirty. With the early lead, Fulton must stay focused and not lose concentration or play the tic-for-tac game with such a dangerous puncher.
Fulton keeping his head on a line would be a major mistake, as would pulling out in a straight line. Both men use a high guard, but both can be tagged to the body and around that guard another note to keep an eye on.
Fulton can bring the heat, box at range, or on his bike, giving him various paths to victory which is very hard to ignore. On the flip side, power with extremely accurate punches mixed with impromptu angles is a deadly combination for Naoya.
Neither boxer has been across the ring with someone as gifted and unique, so for me, it’s a wash. This is much closer to a 50-50 regardless of what the betting sites claim, with Fulton as a sizable underdog sitting around +250 all the way to +320.
One last thing of note will be judging in Japan, which in recent years hasn’t been a major problem. Even if Fulton has a clear lead he will most certainly face serious adversity in the form of a knockdown or, at the very least, being hurt.
For all my fellow gambling degenerates, the hedge to play is Inoue via stoppage and Fulton via decision. That way, for example, using myboxing.ag, you can get a lower minus number for Inoue -106 instead of -370 straight up and for Fulton +478 instead of the +244 straight up.
My Official Prediction is Stephen Fulton by Majority or Split-Decision.
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Written by Chris Carlson, Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio