Boxing enthusiasts worldwide were eagerly awaiting a thrilling weekend of pugilistic action in early May, with the return of Canelo Alvarez on May 6 and the highly anticipated bout between Stephen Fulton and Naoya Inoue on May 7, set to take place in Japan.
Regrettably, unforeseen circumstances have led to the temporary removal of the Fulton vs. Inoue clash from the boxing calendar.
According to an exclusive report by ESPN, Inoue encountered an injury during his intense training regimen while preparing for his showdown against Stephen Fulton, the reigning WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion.
Naoya Inoue, the undisputed bantamweight champion, had recently conquered Paul Butler in December, cementing his status as “The Monster” and solidifying his position as a dominant force in the boxing world. Eager to test his skills in a new weight class, he accepted the challenge to face super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton, demonstrating his dedication to the sport by agreeing to fight in his opponent’s home country.
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The Injury and Postponement: What We Know
The details surrounding Naoya Inoue’s injury shed light on the unfortunate postponement of this thrilling contest. Chairman Hideyuki Ohashi of the Ohashi boxing gym revealed at a press conference that Inoue injured his fist while sparring on March 9. Following a thorough examination, no bone abnormalities were found, but inflammation was detected in the tendon. The persistent pain led to the decision to postpone the fight, which was officially communicated to Stephen Fulton’s team on May 16, with their acceptance on May 21.
The exact fist affected by the injury was not disclosed. Inoue, in a heartfelt message to his fans, assured them that the fight would go on, despite the delay:
“I am writing to inform you that the title match scheduled for May 7 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.”
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“I have decided that it will be extremely difficult for me to enter the ring in perfect condition. 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.”
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The Rescheduled Date and Opponents
As of now, fans eagerly await the rescheduled Fulton vs. Inoue bout, which is slated for the summer. During a recent press conference, Chairman Ohashi announced that the fight is scheduled for July, and the specific location within the Tokyo metropolitan area, including options such as Tokyo, Saitama, and Kanagawa, is under discussion.
It is worth noting that Fulton’s last fight occurred in June, while Inoue’s most recent bout took place in June 2022 against Nonito Donaire. This means that June and July offer an open fight calendar with no major dates currently off the table.
Fulton’s Options in the Meantime
While Stephen Fulton remains focused on his clash with Naoya Inoue, he confirmed via Twitter that a new date has been set for the title bout. However, should he decide not to wait, Fulton has a few compelling options at his disposal.
One potential avenue is a rematch against Brandon Figueroa. Fulton secured victory over Figueroa in 2021, earning the WBC super-bantamweight title. Figueroa has since moved to the featherweight division, where he claimed the WBC featherweight title by defeating Mark Magsayo in early March.
Another intriguing prospect for Fulton is Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the reigning WBA and IBF super bantamweight champion. Akhmadaliev is set to face Marlon Tapales on April 8, providing an exciting alternative for Fulton should he choose not to wait for the rescheduled Inoue showdown.
In the world of boxing, setbacks like injuries are a part of the game, but the determination and spirit of champions like Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton promise an exhilarating showdown once they step into the ring this summer. Boxing enthusiasts will undoubtedly be counting down the days until they witness these two formidable talents face off in the quest for supremacy.