Naoya Inoue suffered an injury in training and his May 7 fight in Yokohama, Japan against Stephen Fulton for the unified 122-pound championship has been postponed, sources told ESPN.
The fight, which was scheduled to air on ESPN+ in the United States, will be rescheduled for the summer in Japan, the sources said. The nature of the injury is unclear, according to the sources, but the severity is not considered serious.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) vacated all four of his 118-pound titles in January, a month after capturing the undisputed bantamweight championship with an 11th-round KO of Paul Butler, to pursue titles in a fourth category of weight. The Japanese star quickly closed a deal to fight ESPN’s No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds: Fulton. The 28-year-old from Philadelphia holds the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) isn’t just the best fighter at 122 pounds; he is also one of the best regardless of weight. A fight between Fulton and Inoue is one of the best matchups the sport has to offer.
Fulton, who has never fought professionally outside of the US, told ESPN in June that he believed a fight with Inoue was “realistic” if Inoue moved up to 122 pounds before Fulton eventually moved up to 126.
“I’m not scared of big fights,” Fulton said then. “A lot of people want to see (me vs. Inoue); a lot of people want to talk about it too.
“Had I been better known as Inoue, I’d be on that (pound for pound) list.”
Inoue, 29, is one of the world’s most dynamic boxers, a boxer with blazing speed who uses angles, punch variety and in-ring IQ to quickly beat top contenders. He was involved in ESPN’s 2019 Fight of the Year, in which he broke his nose and fractured orbital to outpoint Nonito Donaire.
Inoue left no doubt in the rematch last June when he scored a second-round TKO of the future Hall of Famer.
Against Fulton, Inoue will certainly face his biggest and toughest challenge to date. Fulton is a 122-pounder throughout his career who can box from the inside and outside and often throws more than 1,000 punches in his fights. Inoue, for his part, started his career at 108 pounds.
“The real battle starts from here,” Inoue said in January.
Now, Inoue, Fulton, and the fans will have to wait a little longer for the highly anticipated matchup.