The day is approaching when Naoya Inoue, 30, will challenge for the WBC/WBO super bantamweight title. The champion, Stephen Fulton Jr. is 28 years old, born on July 17, 1994. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia is home to boxing, as Sylvester Stallone made it the setting for the “Rocky” film series. The city’s most famous boxer was Muhammad Ali’s rival, Joe Frazier, who became a gold medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and rose to the top of the world as a professional boxer.
But Frazier was not a native Philadelphian; he was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1944 and came to Philadelphia, the first capital of modern America, “to be somebody,” at age 15. And while working in a meatpacking plant, he emerged as a professional boxer.
There is a scene in which Rocky Balboa hits a hunk of meat hanging from the ceiling like a sandbag, but for what it’s worth, Frazier is the model. Today, Philadelphia is home to all four major U.S. sports and all of their teams, and their home ballparks and arenas are adjacent to each other. A statue of Frazier stands in one of those corners.
Frazier, who passed away on November 7, 2011, at the age of 67, built his own gym in Philadelphia and lived on the second floor of it during his final years. Tim Witherspoon, 14 years younger than Frazier, was selected as Ali’s sparring partner as a young boxer. Witherspoon believes that emulating Frazier’s head-slip technique improved his defensive skills.
Witherspoon had an exceptional boxing sense, but he could not establish a long-term regime. He was exploited by promoter Don King to the point where he lost the motivation to fight. Nevertheless, he stayed in the ring until he was 45 years old, saying, “I don’t know any other way to make money. He was ranked ninth in the world until a few months before his retirement, and this was only because he had developed brilliant defensive techniques.
Withaspoon has known the current WBC/WBO super bantamweight champion since his amateur days.
The boxing world is a small place,” he said. Fulton is a quiet, serious guy. He’s got two belts and a beard now, but he’s always been the type of guy who trains quietly in the gym and leaves quickly. Philly has always been a good place to get good athletes, so he never really stood out that much.
I had heard that she was from the projects in the northern part of town and came from a single mother with four children. I’d heard that most people who become boxers are the type who try to climb out of poverty,” she said. Frazier, me, and him,” he said. They put on the gloves thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to give my mother a house.
In American society, the term “project” refers to cheap housing for the poor. Project neighborhoods, where the lowest class people in the U.S. are stirring, are natural breeding grounds for crime. Drug dealing, extortion, and prostitution are the quickest ways for residents of these areas to make money.
Stephan Fulton, Jr. lived in a two-bedroom project apartment building until he was 12 years old, keeping others from looking at his back. He had a birthmark shaped like an arrowhead on the lower part of his back, which he hid.
I was in a similar situation,” Withaspoon says.
My father, a truck driver, and my mother, an EKG technician, raised us eight siblings in a small three-room house, but we rarely had enough to eat. But we rarely had enough to eat. There were drug dealers around the house, and gang wars were a constant. Criminals were not uncommon, whether at school or in the neighborhood.
Fulton did not live with his father until he was ten years old. Fulton did not live with his father until he was ten years old, because Stefan Sr. wore a prison uniform. The only boy in the Fulton family, he watched several of his friends lose their lives and endured violence by elders in the neighborhood. When his father was eventually released from prison, he encouraged Junior to take up boxing. It was a way to save his son’s life.
The two-time champion, who will face Naoya Inoue, recalls his past: “I had to go through a metal detector at school.
I had to pass through a metal detector to get into school. I had to go through a metal detector to get into school, and then my childhood friend was killed. I also grew up surrounded by drug dealers. But I chose a different path.
Because of my father’s advice, I went to a boxing gym. Recalling the negative events of my childhood, such as losing friends on the streets, I turned my anger, frustration, and sorrow against my opponents in the ring. Thanks to you, I was able to get the things I needed to succeed. So I’m really grateful to my father. And I have the deepest respect for my mother for raising us.”
Witherspoon nodded a few times and continued.
He nodded his head a few times and continued, “That’s the kind of heart that all boxers who find glory have in common. They work hard because they know that if they lose boxing, they have nothing. But the reality is that there are a lot of cheaters out there who only want to take advantage of people.
Comparing the last few fights between Inoue and Fulton, the former world heavyweight champion said.
‘Skill and mentality make the difference between winning and losing. Inouye can knock you down with any punch, left or right, and he’s won all 24 of his fights, 19 of them world title fights? He’s knocked out all but three of them. That means he knows how to KO. For Inouye, Fulton will be bigger than his previous opponents. But I think he’ll be able to handle him with his quick steps. Anyway, he is unstoppable. Not only in the ring, but also in his life as a boxer. That’s the big attraction.
He counters well, and I think he’s going to try to match Fulton’s right hand with a left body shot or something like that. He’s strong and aggressive, so I’m looking forward to seeing where he can unleash his power. Plus, he will have the support of his home country on his side this time. A match in your home country gives you an immense advantage.
On the other hand, he said of his hometown juniors: “Fulton has also won all 21 of his matches.
Fulton, too, has won all 21 of his fights with eight KOs, but he has three world title fights with major organizations. But he has three world title fights with major organizations and five world fights with minor titles. He may be more accustomed than Inouye to long 12-round bouts, but…. Fulton is not as flashy as Inouye, but he is the type of fighter who can drag you into his pace in a clumsy but steady manner. Frankly, he doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the previous world champions that have come out of Philly. He has issues in attack and in defense. Inouye is probably the better boxer in terms of boxing IQ and quality.
However, Fulton must be very determined to go into enemy territory this time. My best bout was against Frank Bruno in London on July 19, 1986 (11 KOs), my first defense after winning the WBA title. Bruno was a popular fighter in his native England, so the Wembley Stadium was a full house, with several Union Jacks swinging. It took a lot of ‘determination’ to go up against a guy who was all around you, all enemies. So that’s what Fulton has. He will face Inouye in unprecedented condition. If he’s going to win, it’s going to be a lot about mentality.
Witherspoon chose his words carefully, and did not give a clear prediction of the winner. He asked me a question to the contrary.
Is it hot in Japan in the summer?”
When I told him that it has been crazy hot for the past few years, he said.
‘Maybe we’re doomed if we’re used to that kind of climate. Well, I’ll look forward to seeing it. Five days after the Fulton/Inouye fight, there is a welterweight title match between four united organizations. Right now, the whole U.S. is interested in the four welterweight title fights. I hope the fight will be even more exciting than that.
What kind of fight will both men put on at the Ariake Arena on July 25? Witherspoon’s words conveyed nuances in favor of Naoya Inoue. Will Japan’s promising star show further progress?
Photography and text by： Soichi Hayashi
Born in 1969. Passed the professional boxing test as a junior lightweight, but suffered an injury to his left elbow. After working as a reporter for a weekly magazine, he became a nonfiction writer, and in 1996, he moved to the U.S. to teach at a public high school in the U.S. He also works as an educator. He is the author of "Minority Fist," "America's Lower Level Education Site," and "America's Problem Child Regeneration Classroom" (all Kobunsha e-books), "God's Ring," "The Door to the World: Forward! Samurai Blue" and "Hohoite to Nurture Coaching" (all published by Kodansha).
Photo： Matsuo/Afro Sports (Inoue) Photo： AP/Afro (Fulton)