Why the former unified world champion will bounce back from his recent setback.
Stephen Fulton Jr. didn’t fly 16 hours to Tokyo with the intention of losing.
The now-former unified super bantamweight titleholder believed he would beat Naoya Inoue on Tuesday because he believed in himself. So much so that he chose to face one of the most feared fighters in the world in that fighter’s backyard, which added to an already daunting challenge.
Fulton didn’t get the outcome he wanted but he should still be applauded for taking such an enormous risk. How many others would’ve had the guts to do that? Not many.
And Fulton had some good moments in the fight, particularly in competitive fifth and seventh rounds, in which he landed some clean, eye-catching shots. It seemed at times that he might climb back into the fight.
Alas, Inoue’s inhuman combination of speed and power proved to be too much for him. He got caught with a huge right to the chin and then a left and soon it was over, referee Hector Afu having no choice but to stop the one-sided fight in the eighth round.
It was an unenviable fate to which 22 of Inoue’s 25 opponents could relate.
That certainly doesn’t mean we should write off Fulton, though. The 29-year-old from Philadelphia remains the excellent, durable boxer he was perceived to be going into the fight, the one who most recently survived a war with Brandon Figueroa and outclassed polished technician Daniel Roman.
Indeed, his setback at Ariake Arena was more about Inoue’s greatness than any deficiencies on his part.
Fulton might take a lesson from Canelo Alvarez’s decision to fight the great Floyd Mayweather in 2013, which was a significant gamble on the part of the young Mexican. Like Fulton on Tuesday, Alvarez had unwavering faith in his own ability in spite of the odds against him.
Mayweather ultimately outclassed him but he didn’t break him. Alvarez, mentally tough, used the setback as a learning experience to help build himself into a pound-for-pound star.
Of course, Alvarez vs. Mayweather and Inoue vs. Fulton aren’t exact parallels. The point is that a setback – even a devastating one – against a truly great fighter isn’t necessarily a career death knell, particularly when you’re as talented as Fulton.
Fulton (21-1, 8 KOs) is hurting right now, more emotionally than physically. After all, he lost his perfect record, which is always a painful blow. He lost his championship belts, which represented the greatest successes in his career. And, naturally, his ego is bruised.
He’ll get past his disappointment, though. Then we’ll see what he’s made of.
I suspect the setback against Inoue won’t break Fulton any more than it did Alvarez after his loss to Mayweather. In fact, the disappointment probably will make him more determined than ever to reach great heights, as if to say, “I’ll show you.”
That could happen at 122 pounds, although he will be out of the title picture for the time being. Inoue plans to face fellow titleholder Marlon Tapales for the undisputed championship late this fall.
Or Fulton could move up to 126. Remember: He has fought at 122 since he pro debut, which took place in 2014. It might be time for him to take the next step.
Either way, you can bet it won’t be long before he gets back to his winning ways and contends for another major title. He’s just too talented, too polished, and too tough to stay down for long.
For a closer look at Stephen Fulton, check out his fighter page.
- Stephen Fulton