By: Sean Crose
While there’s no doubt some will smear, laugh or otherwise dismiss the title of this article, it’s hard to argue convincingly that multi weight titlist Naoya “The Monster” Inoue has now made the leap from impressive boxer of the here and now to the category of timeless legend. Twenty five wins, all but three within the distance. Zero defeats. Twenty world title fights. And, as of Tuesday, world championships in four different divisions. From junior flyweight to junior bantamweight to bantamweight to now super bantamweight, Inoue has officially reigned over every weight category he’s fought in during his nearly eleven year career.
Still, Inoue’s performance on Tuesday against a brilliant Stephen Fulton put (or should put) an end to all questions people may have had about the man. Fulton was, like Inoue, undefeated walking into the ring. He was also slick, focused, and very intelligent while plying his trade. Even more telling, Fulton entered the fight the WBO and WBC super bantamweight champion. Those who felt Fulton had a chance of defeating Inoue in Inoue’s Japanese homeland on Tuesday weren’t insane for feeling that way. Fulton was – and remains – the real deal. Dismissing Fulton because of Tuesday’s Inoue fight is like dismissing Michael Spinks because of the Mike Tyson fight – it indicates a degree of ignorance.
There was no denying, however, who the better man was in the ring at Tokyo’s Ariake Arena on Tuesday. Those who expected Fulton to work his figurative magic were no doubt taken back by Inoue’s performance. The man dominated the Philly fighter from the very beginning. Never frustrated, he simply found a way to land on the fast master boxer. About that – Inoue seemed to actually be the faster of the two men, something this writer didn’t expect. Bottom line: Inoue dominated Fulton, before dropping then stopping him. And again, Fulton is a high level pro.
Hence Inoue’s jump from top fighter to all out legend. Inoue may well lose in the future. Even the greatest fighters usually do. At this point, however, it won’t matter to the 30 year old Inoue’s overall legacy. He’s hit the apex now, achieving something few fighters have – and against top competition, no less. While Fulton deserves much credit for going to Japan to defend his titles, Inoue deserves credit as well for taking on someone as dangerous as Fulton. It’s said that Inoue promised never to take an easy fight early on in his career. He’s stuck to his word – which may be way the man has come so far.
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