Inoue is Tyson at 122 pounds!” Fulton’s senior” former world heavyweight champion roared about his super skills and challenges. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Inoue is Tyson at 122 pounds!” Fulton’s senior” former world heavyweight champion roared about his super skills and challenges.

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Naoya Inoue kicked out Fulton, who had never lost a fight. He is the best and strongest boxer in the history of Japanese boxing.

The WBC/WBO super bantamweight title match began at 8:00 a.m. local time on July 25 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the hometown of Stephan Fulton, Jr.

Former world heavyweight champion Tim Withaspoon, a native of the area and a former world heavyweight champion who still lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, was unable to get up at 4:30 a.m. when the preliminaries began. But he sat down on the couch to watch the main event and stared at the screen. And for about 40 minutes, he watched Inoue win a four-weight championship.
Witherspoon, who has won heavyweight titles with the WBC and WBA, watched Inoue win by KO at 1:14 of the eighth round, he said.

“I saw Fulton in the ring, and I could read that he was pretty nervous. The way his trainer went on and on about Inouye’s bandage at the press conference, and the fact that he cut off the open practice session after only a few minutes were signs of nervousness. Neither he nor the second-guests seemed to be comfortable with the situation.

In fact, Fulton’s movements were stiff after the bell rang. He did land a left jab, but it was out of reach. If he took one more step closer, he would have fallen prey to Inouye’s hard hits. On the contrary, Inouye was relaxed and could see the champion’s punches better. In the first round, I felt that Inoue had the pace and that it was the challenger who had the psychological advantage.

Inoue landed three more jabs to the body and a straight right hand as his second punch.

In the beginning, I couldn’t land my right hand very well,” Inoue said. But Inoue is strong-minded. I’m going to catch Fulton somewhere!  Fulton was showing his will to do so. The trick was a left jab to the body. I keep saying, ‘A boxer has to defend,'” said Fulton. The challenger’s back step was shining, while the champion had no defense.

You can’t last 12 rounds if you’re boxing from the back, circling the ring in circles. Going into the second round, blocking three or four combinations from the challenger, Fulton must have been thinking, ‘I’m not going to take this. The challenger’s confidence grew as the rounds went on, and the champion’s confidence crumbled as he saw what he had built up. The gap between the two was growing wider and wider.”

This time, he built his game with straight left hands to the body.

Inoue’s physique was so massive that it was hard to believe that the fight with Fulton was his first at super bantamweight.

Fulton must have felt that he could not lose to a fighter coming up from the bantamweight division. But when I saw him take a punch, I had to be surprised. Fulton was taller, but the challenger was bigger in both frame and build.  Fulton couldn’t go all the way there and was forced to fight. The key is whether or not you can forcefully stuff the opponent.

In boxing, there is something called the “Philadelphia style. It is a style of fighting that makes full use of counters in close combat. You skillfully miss your opponent’s attack and hit him with a full body blow. You don’t have to put a lot of force into it, but if your timing is right, you can take him down. To do that, a sophisticated defense is essential. Fulton did not just dodge Inouye’s attack this time, but was beaten up. Fulton, who had won all 21 of his fights, had nothing to match the Beast’s technique, speed, punching power, or mentality.

He did manage to duck some of Inouye’s punches, but that didn’t translate into points. As a Philadelphian, I was inclined to root for Fulton, but after the sixth round, I was focused on how Inouye would finish him. Inouye could see all of Fulton’s punches, so it was easy for him to dodge them.”

One of Inoue’s characteristics is his concentration. From the time he practices, he can push himself.

In the sixth round, Inoue took advantage of a left jab. The challenger stepped in midway through the same round and landed a jab to the face, followed by a left hook without a pause.

He was fast, those two shots. I was also impressed. A top boxer reaches the level of art. No doubt, Inouye is one of them. The challenger had the upper hand and power. Fulton would have liked to have done something more, but he can’t ……. He was too far behind to bite the bullet.

The champion in the 7th, too, spent so much time looking at his opponent that he couldn’t get his hands on him. I hit one good right hook, but I had to run away from the fear of ‘he’ll try to finish the strike’ or ‘I’ll eat Inouye’s hard punches if I get too close.'”

In the following round, Inoue took the WBA/WBO super bantamweight champion down with a left jab to the body, a right straight, and a follow-up left hook in the eighth round. Fulton got up at one point, but was hit with more strikes, and the referee stopped the fight just before he sank to the canvas.

Inouye is called a monster, right? Beast is more fitting for me. You were a knockout like Mike Tyson in his prime. Inouye is unbeatable at 122 pounds. I think he could move up a class or two.

Witherspoon gave Flicker a hard time, but he could master it more than Hearns.

However, I dare you to give me a hard time. (You shouldn’t do the flicker jab (hitting with the left hand down and snapping). The most famous user of this posture, called the Detroit style, is Thomas Hearns. As you know, he is a legendary champion who won five weight classes from welterweight.

But he got hit a lot, didn’t he? Sadly, the way Hearns talks, you can feel the damage from the punches. With Inouye’s ability, he could master techniques like raising his guard, catching his opponent’s punch with his glove, and countering with his other fist. In boxing, you should never let someone hit you.”

Witherspoon, who stayed in the ring until the age of 45 because of his defensive prowess and was ranked No. 9 in the world just prior to that, is not the type to suffer the aftereffects of retirement. He has a history of being exploited by promoters, but as for Inoue’s future, he stated.

Inouye’s strength is real. Whether the pound-for-pound theory is good or bad, he’s in first place, or even if he’s not, he’s still in the top ranks. That’s what he deserves. But if he fights fights like this, which airs early in the morning on weekdays in the U.S., doesn’t that make him a “nobody to know”?  Three fights are not enough.

He should have advertised this fight more in the US. I don’t think there is a boxing fan who doesn’t like his performance. He knows boxing, he is fast, he has power. He is a perfect fighter. It would be a shame if he doesn’t fight in his home country. I’m looking forward to seeing how big of a champion he can become.

The former world heavyweight champion was also considerate of his juniors who lost their belts in Japan and returned home heartbroken.

Most fighters, including myself, choose boxing to rise above poverty. Fulton, whose father was a criminal, was a ghetto man with no hope in life. Fulton, who was WBO champ in 2009, got only half of his opponent’s fight money when he signed for a unification bout with the WBC champ. Even the Inouye fight, he would have been guaranteed the money, but he walked into enemy territory. He may be a champion, but he’s not the type to have walked in the sun.

He was certainly not as good as Inouye. His pride and everything he had built up as a boxer would have been shattered this time. But he is only 29 years old. He is a good fighter, and he is not too old to give up. I want him to train with a physical trainer to strengthen his core, and then learn to box as one with his offense and defense. I know his heart was shattered after his first loss in his professional career, but I hope he can regain himself once again.

<Mike Tyson, 122 pounds.

That is how Naoya Inoue is described by the two-time world heavyweight champion. What kind of brilliance will Inoue bring to the ring in the future?

Witherspoon, a former heavyweight champ who lives with his five daughters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia©Soichi Hayashi

Click here to purchase “The Fist of Minority,” Soichi Hayashi’s book about Tim Witherspoon’s life.

  • Interview 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 educator, teaching at a public high school in the U.S. In 1996, he moved to the U.S. He graduated from the University of Tokyo's Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies in 2014. He is the author of "Minority Fist," "America Lower Level Education Site," and "America 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 Photo AP/Afro

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