By Dan Ambrose: The undisputed super bantamweight championship fight between unified champions Naoya Inoue and Marlon Tapales is being planned for November.
ESPN is reporting that the Inoue-Tapales is possible for four months from now, which isn’t a lot of time, but with the way Inoue is fighting, he doesn’t need more than that.
Tapales captured the IBF & WBA 122-lb titles last April, beating champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev by a twelve round split decision.
Last night, Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) captured the WBC & WBO 122-lb titles, stopping champion Stephen Fulton (21-1, 8 KOs) in the eighth round at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.
Fulton, who, up until last night, was perceived by many fans as the #1 guy at super bantamweight, was dropped twice in the eighth round before the fight was halted. Stephen had no power in his punches to keep Inoue honest, and his jab was nonexistent.
Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs) is arguably a step down from Fulton for Inoue, but that’s no concern for him. Inoue’s reason for fighting the 31-year-old Tapales isn’t to fight the best guy possible. It’s to capture his IBF & WBA super bantamweight title so that he can crow about being a two-weight undisputed champion.
If Inoue wanted to face someone that would test him that he could potentially lose to, he would fight one of these guys:
– Robeisy Ramirez
– Vasily Lomachenko
– Shakur Stevenson
– Gervonta Davis
Those guys would likely be a step too far for Inoue. The only one of that bunch that he would possibly have a shot at beating is Robeisy, but that’s unlikely, too, because the Cuban has power, skills, and chin and wouldn’t be afraid to walk through Inoue’s shots to do damage.
Inoue made Fulton look ordinary
“You got to remember who Stephen Fulton was coming into this. This is an undefeated fighter, a master boxer, a versatile guy, and he made him look so ordinary. I’ve never seen Fulton look so tentative, and it was by a smaller guy,” said Mark Kriegel to ESPN.
It’s fair to say that Fulton was a tad bit overrated by fans after his wins over Daniel Roman, Brandon Figueroa, and Angelo Leo. Those were all close contests, with Fulton showing no power and winning by outboxing those fighters.
Fulton is a good fighter, but he’d never beaten any killers during his career that would suggest that he deserved to be rated so highly by casual boxing fans.
Fulton gave up after the first round
“It was right away. In the first round, as soon as he realized the speed, the power, the prowess, the technical ability, especially with the jab,” said Kriegel.”Forget the power punches. The jab,” said Joe Tessitore about Fulton.
Did Fulton quit after the first round when he saw what he was up against? It looked that way. Fulton looked like he quit right away when he saw that Inoue had an overwhelming talent advantage over him. You hate to say that Fulton mentally quit, but it looked that way.
“The smaller man won the jab battle, and the smaller man won the actual battle. When you win the jab battle, everything else follows, as you can see here,” said Tim Bradley on Inoue winning the jab battle over Fulton.
“He has now won his last fourteen of his last fifteen fights by knockout. The exception is the first fight, the fight of the year, against Nonito Donaire,” said Tessitore. “When he fought through a broken orbital bone and broken nose and still won the fight.”
“I still think that was his greatest fight. He found something in himself,” said Kriegel. “This was extraordinary for moving up in weight and fighting a guy that we’d never seen look anything but masterful.”
It goes without saying that 40-year-old Nonito Donaire is Naoya’s toughest opponent to date, reflecting the Japanese star’s weak resume.
“A minute into round eight, the vicious right hand [from Inoue that landed to the head of Fulton], and the follow-up attack to finish off the previous undefeated unified champion, Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton,” said Tessitore.
“He is now just the 22nd man to be a four-division champion in the history of boxing. There have only been 22nd of them, and he is now one of them.
“There have only been three men that have done it while having the bantamweight and junior featherweight world championships. He is the third and is now 10-0 against the world champions. In world championship fights, he is 20-0 with 18 knockouts.”
Inoue vs. Tapales possible for November
“One of the things you didn’t see tonight because Inoue didn’t let it happen. ‘He’s got to be Bernard Hopkins. He’s got to get inside and use his physical strength.’ It never happened because Inoue’s feet were so quick,” said Kriegel. “His technical mastery was such that he never got himself in a position where Fulton could clinch.”
Fulton didn’t take it to the inside to try and maul & rough up Inoue because he lacks an inside game. Fulton is a pure boxer, and mailing isn’t something he’s focused on.
“I’ve never thought the boxing world would bring another Manny Pacquiao-ish type of person,” said Bradley. “I think when you look at Inoue in how he’s traveled up these distances, up these weight classes, I feel like he can travel up as many weight classes as he likes.”
“The two men meet inside the ring in Tokyo for the first of what will likely be many face-offs,” said Tessitore about Inoue & IBF/WBA super bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales facing off inside the ring after Naoya’s eighth round knockout win over Fulton.
“The word that we’re hearing is a likely fight for undisputed at junior featherweight  could come in November of this year. That is assuming Inoue won [against Fulton]. You got more than just a win.”
This isn’t the end for Stephen Fulton
“There’s only one thing that makes a great fighter, and that’s another great fighter,” said Kriegel. “Credit for Stephen Fulton for traveling 7,000 miles, for taking this, for believing he could win.
“He’s a great fighter, and we need more guys like Stephen Fulton that are willing to take that risk. There’s no shame in losing. He’ll come back, kid.”
“Scooter, as he’s known in West Philly. It should be an inspiration for many in that area. He represents it well. He’s worked hard to become who he is, and he made this happen in a week that is a fight fan’s dream,” said Tessitore.
“This is how it starts with ‘The Monster,’ Inoue, making it look easy. That’s what’s so mind-blowing. He goes up in weight against the guy, the unified champion. He made it look ridiculously easy.”
“I know this could be the farthest thing from what both guys are thinking, but how does Spence & Crawford top that?” said Kriegel “Not in terms of drama because it wasn’t a dramatic fight after a while. It was pretty one-sided.”
“That’s why when you have the pound-for-pound debate, I have so much admiration for Bud Crawford and Errol Spence. I think the world of those two guys,” said Tessitore. “When I think about the pound-for-pound list, it’s the eye test; it’s the results, it’s who you are and what you know.
“If you told me that everybody was the same weight, that everybody in boxing was 5’9″, 140 lbs, what this guy does for his size? I don’t care. This is the best fighter in the world right there,” said Tessitore about Inoue.