Facing Naoya Inoue in Japan is one of the toughest tasks in boxing today. Unified WBO and WBC Champion Stephen Fulton Accepts That Challenge, Move On sky game Tuesday morning.
“He’s coming, boy. He’s coming.”
Paul Butler had 10 rounds of boxing with Naoya Inoue, fighting for the undisputed bantamweight world title in Japan.
His second voice from around the corner had a warning for him. Butler looked over his trainer’s shoulder and saw Inoue quickly rise from his stool. Butler remembered, “He’s dragging his legs back like a bull.” He knew Inoue was angry.
Fulton puts his unified WBO and WBC super-bantamweight titles on the line when he meets Inoue at Tokyo’s Ariake Arena, live sky sports main event Or sky sports action Tuesday morning from 9.30 am.
This will be the Japanese star’s first contest at the weight, but Inoue has previously been champion in three different divisions and moved undisputed at bantamweight in his last fight when he stopped Butler in the 11th round.
Jason Moloney joins the WBO title list at 118lbs, but Inoue knocked the Australian out inside seven rounds when they fought in 2020.
It was not just Inouye’s “incredible power” that startled Moloney. It was his speed.
Moloney said, “I didn’t see the punches.” sky game, “Both times he hurt me and then put me down.
“They were too fast.”
He explained: “If you were trying to get away and create some distance for yourself, his closing speed on the first step where he would just explode into bounds and let go of his hands was unbelievable.”
Inoue is famous for being a brutal finisher. Moloney said, “Once he gets into, I think, the ‘killer’ mindset where he’s reckless and lets his hands go and lets them go with bad intentions, it’s very difficult to stop him.”
But there is more to him than just knockouts. The speed of his feet and hands means that when opponents try to move forward to make room for his work, he is unable to do so. Before they can react, Inoue grabs them.
“He’s absolutely special. He’s not only good in all areas – he’s obviously a very complete fighter and technically perfect, but he’s exceptional in all areas, his control over distance, the use of his feet, how fast he can move in and out of range and his arm speed and incredible power. He really is a complete package,” the Australian said.
“I went in there with the intention of winning the fight and believed I could win the fight, but when you’re in the ring with him he’s probably going to be even better than I expected.
“I couldn’t win the fight on my own terms. He’s very good at controlling it. When you want to choke the action, he’s very good at retreating, wearing you down and bringing you in for his great counter punches and then if you ever want to try and get away from him, the speed of his moves is incredible.
What to watch on Sky Sports this week?
Final Men’s Ashes Test – 27 to 31 July – Live on Sky Sports Cricket
premier league summer series – From 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Belgian Grand Prix – 28 to 30 July – Live on Sky Sports F1
Stephen Fulton vs Naoya Inoue – 25 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
Senisa Estrada vs Leonella Yudica – 29 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
netball world cup – 28 July to 6 August – Live on Sky Sports Action
Australia vs New Zealand – 29 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
St Helens vs Leeds – 28 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
“Going into the fight I knew he was very powerful but his arm speed and his foot speed was really incredible. Probably the foot speed was something that really surprised me.
“Obviously when he makes you pay, with the power he has, he hurts you and you keep getting hurt. You can’t afford to make mistakes like that, but unfortunately he’s very good at making you make mistakes.”
Moloney had the unique intense experience of boxing Inoue in a ‘bubble’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a quiet convention center with limited crowds due to the pandemic.
Boxing the ‘Monster’ in Japan adds another layer of difficulty. Before Butler’s fight with him, there was an argument about the scales at the weigh-in. He did not get a chance to warm up before being called to the ringwalk on the night of the fight. On those occasions his team had to fight hard.
Butler said, “When it got to the close of the fight, the games started to come out.” “They started messing around, they wouldn’t let you get comfortable basically.”
Fulton’s trainer has already objected to the way the Japan Boxing Commission allows fighters to wrap their hands. ‘Staking’ is prohibited in some other jurisdictions.
Butler could have wrapped his hands in the same way, but decided to stick to what he knew.
“We tried it a few days ago during training,” he said. “Just to see if it made a difference. Personally I didn’t like it, it felt like it was strangling my hands.”
“We are allowed to put a certain amount of tape on the skin first, then bandage and then put your tape back on. [In Japan] They can put as much tape on his skin as they want. Then he went to bandage, then he went back to tape, went back to bandage, finished with tape so I can see why everyone is moaning and saying it’s like a cast.
“But it’s legal there.”
Butler also noticed that Inoue has started using the Reyes glove in recent fights. These are known as ‘puncher’s gloves’.
Butler gleefully said, “Reyes has horse hair and eventually, after so many rounds, the horse hair gets behind the glove and at the end his ‘cast’ basically hits you in the face.”
These are all added pressures, psychological and real, when fighting a local superstar in your own country. But Inoue’s ability is also undeniable.
Butler said, “He kind of pushed me to places in the ring where he wanted me to be and I’m smart enough and I knew what he was doing so I got my feet a little quicker to get out of some situations but it’s just him being there.”
“I knew if he hit me two or three or I switched off, it was game over.”
Inoue would try to trick the opponent into making mistakes. Butler said, “He started to drop his hands, hands went behind his back and I think he was trying to exchange something with me.” “He’s trying to change me so I’ll open up a little more.”
But Inoue can also create the opportunities he needs. With Butler, he got the finish by punching the guard to open the way for a body shot.
“My elbow is trapped inside but he goes right to the side,” the Briton said. “When the referee waved it up, I still had to stay down… I literally couldn’t breathe. It hurt.”
Inoue looks spotless outside the ring and looks far less intimidating once he steps across the ropes.
Butler said, “On the day of waiting I looked at him and thought ‘How are you beating people? You’re short'”. “His legs are huge, apparently that’s where all your power comes from.
He continued, “He smiled and nodded his head towards me.” “He looks a little different from what he’s done before [in the final faceoff with Fulton], It’s like he has a chip on his shoulder, which is not like him.”
Butler believes that ringcraft and boxing along with intelligence are important when it comes to fighting Inoue. He said, “Always keep your shape, always keep your composure, always stick to the plan.”
Fulton is known to be a smart boxer and has been a super-bantamweight throughout his career. For Inoue, stepping up to 122 pounds for the first time, he is competing against the highest level operator.
Butler said, “He looks good, he’s stylish, he’s smart. I think Inoue will find a way.” “The size difference with Fulton, I don’t think it will phase Inoue.
“He’ll do what he’ll do. I think the re-appearance will eventually put Fulton on the backfoot and I think Inoue will catch him as well, he’ll probably stop him in the middle to last rounds.”
Moloney is also rooting for Inoue to win.
The WBO champion said, “It will be very difficult for anyone to beat him, probably at featherweight or below, I think he beats everyone in the world.”
“He’s the complete package.”