Naoya Inoue is the best fighter in the world — and the greatest fighter of all time

Mike Coppinger, ESPNJul 25, 2023, 10:54 a.m. ET

Naoya Inoue isn’t just the best boxer in the world — he is an all-time great boxer who is still adding another chapter to his legendary career.

“The Monster” continued his ascent to the all-time mythos list with another convincing display, Stephen Fulton’s disastrous eighth-round TKO on Tuesday in Tokyo to capture the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles.

The Japanese star doesn’t just deliver devastating punches with incredible speed and power; he also outplayed Fulton in dominant fashion winning every round in a clear manner until termination.

In Round 8, Fulton was bleeding and receiving one-sided destruction when Inoue unleashed a brutal right hand that sent Fulton reeling. It looked like he was about to go down when Inoue hit a left hook to his face which ensured Fulton hit the canvas.

Fulton somehow got to his feet but was in no shape to continue when Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) was suddenly in his face, throwing confusion that folded him into a pile as the referee saved him from further punishment.

Hit Statistics

PunchesFultonInoueTotal landed47114Total thrown223379Percent21%30%Jab landed2344Jab thrown152199Percent15%22%Power landed2470Power thrown71180Percent34%39%– Courtesy of CompuBox

There’s no doubt that Inoue is the pound-for-pound king, and with this scintillating performance, he’s paying attention to Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford. They meet for the undisputed welterweight championship on Saturday in Las Vegas, and the promotion has been billed as a battle for pound-for-pound supremacy.

But if either fighter is really hoping to unseat Inoue, he’s got to do something extraordinary on Saturday. Most likely, they will compete for the No. 1 spot. 2 behind Inoue.

The top spot in the pound-for-pound ranking belongs to Inoue, who easily defeated the No. 1 boxer. 1 at 122 pounds in his first fight at weight class. No one else in boxing today has accomplished what Inoue did.

The 30-year-old won his first title at 108 pounds and has more power than the four weight classes he has taken to the north.

Fulton, a very good fighter in his own right, who became champion in 2021 by defeating Brandon Figueroa, appeared clueless on how to handle Inoue. Outside of Fulton’s two right-hand cuts landing flat in Round 7, there were only a few other shots of consequence throughout the fight.

Inoue can do it all. His footwork is excellent, allowing him to set up shots from great angles. His hand speed was unmatched, which made Fulton hesitate to open up for fear of a backlash. And Inoue’s punches were sharp and compact, allowing little margin for error from his opponent.

Inoue, who is 5-foot-5, said ahead of the fight that he was “pushing the boundaries of my body, my limits,” but so far, that hasn’t come close to reality. Inoue’s talent doesn’t seem to be limited by weight class. The truly great warriors are not tested until they have climbed so far that it is too heavy.

Inoue has great speed and a lot of power behind his punches. He’s a special fighter! #InoueFulton

— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) July 25, 2023

Maybe at some point, that’s what happened to Inoue. But not yet. He welcomed Marlon Taples – who holds two other titles at junior featherweight – into the ring afterward, setting up a fight for the undisputed 122 pound championship later this year.

Inoue will be the heavy favorite for all four belts in the second weight class after he won the undisputed bantamweight championship with an 11th-round knockout of Paul Butler in December.

After Tapales, maybe Inoue will finish at 122 pounds too. With his incredible strength still at 122, it stands to reason that he could also clear 126 pounds.

Robeisy Ramirez, an Olympic gold medalist, defended her featherweight title with a fifth-round TKO in the co-main event on Tuesday. That’s a natural fight for Inoue next year.

The question now becomes: How far can Inoue gain weight? When will it be too much?

In the style of the great Manny Pacquiao, who also won his first title at 108 pounds, maybe Inoue can also perform at an elite level at 130 and over. With all that Inoue had accomplished so far, it would be foolish to doubt him.

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