Stephen Fulton was up against it. Naoya Inoue seemed like a force of nature on paper, one that was quickly arriving in the super bantamweight division. The moment he walked through those doors at 122 pounds, however, Fulton barricaded his path. His WBC and WBO titles were proudly draped over his shoulders and his undefeated record made the Philly native believe he was essentially untouchable.
Inoue though, saw through Fulton’s facade. During the months that led up to their eventual clash, Fulton’s confidence grew. Brandon Figueroa, nevertheless, knew that his former rival was in for a world of hurt.
Figueroa can now add prophet to his job title as Inoue proved him right. The Japanese star easily outboxed Fulton during the early rounds, pounded on him at the midway point, and got rid of him during the second half of their contest.
Fulton’s stateside supporters were shell-shocked as to what took place. Figueroa, on the other hand, saw it all coming a mile away.
“I just felt like Inoue was going to be too much for him,” Figueroa told 210 BoxingTV. “Just pressure-wise, power, Inoue is very precise.”
The 30-year-old may have just arrived at 122 pounds, but after pushing Fulton to the side, he’s just two titles away from another undisputed run. Marlon Tapales becomes Inoue’s next target. He’ll now look to fully unify the division by year’s end.
If the pound-for-pound star does what many are expecting, there will be nothing left for him to accomplish at 122 pounds. His next logical step, of course, would be another move up in weight. Figueroa, naturally, is keeping an eye on him.
Since losing to Fulton via controversial decision in 2021, Figueroa (24-1-1, 18 KOs) handed his body a reprieve and began campaigning at 126 pounds. Everything has gone smoothly for the 26-year-old who recently managed to grab the WBC’s interim title against Mark Magsayo.
He isn't a full-fledged champion but Figueroa at least has something that will draw the attention of the man nicknamed the “Monster.” There's still work to be done before Inoue vs. Figueroa can become a reality.
In the meanwhile, apprehension won’t consume Figueroa’s thoughts. More than anything, the former titleholder at 122 pounds actually hopes that he’ll line up against Inoue sooner rather than later.
“Inoue vs. me would be a good fight. I think any fight vs. me would be a great fight because I come to fight. I’m happy to fight the best of the best and I would love to fight Inoue as well.”