A new date and location are in place for the best matchup to grace the 2023 boxing schedule.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the highly anticipated Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue championship fight will now take place on July 25 at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan. News of the rescheduled affair comes one week after it was learned that Inoue suffered a hand injury during training camp which forced the cancellation of a May 7 event at Yokohama Arena in his hometown of Yokohama, Japan.
Instead, Inoue will now make his second straight appearance at a venue where he previously made history.
“We thank the Fulton camp and everyone involved for accepting the postponement, and promise the best preparation and the best match,” Inoue revealed overnight of the new date. “And I will definitely win.”
Philadelphia’s Fulton (21-0, 8KOs) will defend his unified WBC/WBO junior featherweight crown versus Inoue, who recently vacated his undisputed bantamweight championship in pursuit of winning a title in a fourth weight division. The event will air live on ESPN+ in the United States and on new streaming service Lemino, whose launch debut is April 12.
The stellar matchup will mark the fourth straight in his home country for Inoue and second in his hometown venue which holds a capacity of 17,000 and is expected to be filled to the rafters. Fulton will fight outside the U.S. for the first time in his eight-plus year pro career.
Inoue (24-0, 21KOs) abdicated the bantamweight throne after making history for his native Japan last December at Ariake Arena. The longtime pound-for-pound entrant from Yokohama became the first Asian boxer to claim undisputed champion status in the multi-belt era following his eleventh-round knockout of England’s Paul Butler.
Inoue entered their unification clash as the lineal/WBC/WBA bantamweight champion and left the ring with Butler’s WBO strap in tow.
All four belts were vacated on January 13, exactly one month after Inoue’s historic feat. Vacant title fights have been secured for each title, beginning with Takuma Inoue—Naoya’s younger brother—facing Liborio Solis for the WBA title on April 8 also at Ariake Arena.
The elder Inoue did not want to waste time in his new weight, immediately aiming for a title shot. Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the reigning unified WBA/IBF 122-pound titlist, was already booked with a mandatory title defense, as he will face IBF number-one contender Marlon Tapales on April 8 in San Antonio.
It mattered little, as the respective teams for Inoue and Fulton didn’t waste any time working out terms.
Inoue’s fourth straight fight in Japan comes after back-to-back appearances in Las Vegas, where he scored knockout wins over Jason Moloney (October 2020) and Michael Dasmarinas (June 2021). He then returned home for a voluntary title defense in December 2021 before he further unified the division with a second-round knockout of Nonito Donaire in their June 7 rematch at Saitama Super Arena. Inoue defended the WBA and IBF titles, and won the WBA belt with the repeat win over the legendary four-division champ.
Fulton won the WBO title in a January 2021 unanimous decision over unbeaten champ Angelo Leo. He added the WBC strap after outlasting Brandon Figueroa in their terrific November 2021 unification match between undefeated champions. Fulton made his second overall title defense in his most recent bout, a lopsided twelve-round victory over former unified titlist Daniel Roman last June 4 in Minneapolis.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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