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Japanese boxing sensation Naoya Inoue reigns supreme

When Naoya Inoue razed out Stephen Fulton at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2023, the exuberant Japanese left the home crowd and the world gaping in sheer disbelief at the man.

Barely eight months since wiping out world boxing’s bantamweight division with a thumping annihilation of Paul Butler for four titles in a unification fight at the same venue, Inoue pulled off the unthinkable by scaling a weight class to the super bantamweight class.

A gain of four pounds might be seemingly easy to pull off for a veteran, who has carved 25 wins from as many professional fights since debut. But Inoue’s undisputed career began at 108 pounds in 2012, barely 10 kilometres away from the venue of his latest conquest.

His supple arms do more than merely make up for his short and ordinary frame; a quality that has stood through the years and even dazed Fulton during his harrowing defeat, a first in his 22-bout career. Fulton was no pushover at 122 pounds. He had the yards behind him over his three previous fights, winning and retaining the WBO and WBC super bantamweight titles. Fulton also had the vertical advantage of four inches and a marginally better reach. However, the American would have never dreamt of bearing the ultimate knockout punch from a fighter debuting in a division where he was the reigning champion. 

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After playing catchup in the first seven rounds, a drained Fulton completely froze in Inoue’s flawless trap in the eighth. After a low left tap feint, Inoue stoked a beam of the rising sun on Fulton — a crunching right-hand flush to the face dropping him to the surface. It was in the offing, but the Japanese ‘Monster’ still upstaged Fulton with the impact.

Surprisingly, Fulton dared to stand up and beat the count, but the contest barely lasted another ten seconds with Inoue, in samurai mode, pouncing with a slew of furious jabs to settle the deal. With two titles in the bag before exiting the ring with utmost respect for his opponent, Inoue quickly pinned his next target. Marlon Tapales, the Filipino star and holder of the IBF and WBA world titles in the division, nimbly accepted an invitation to the ring, setting up another championship showdown for the end of the year.

With 20 wins in title fights, 18 of which were born through incredible knockouts, the 30-year-old Inoue will undoubtedly start favourite before he pulverizes a fourth successive division.

A collective thought lingers on though: what is the limit for this otherworldly beast?

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