By Victor Conte Updated on July 24, 2023

Early Morning Showdown

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A huge week of boxing, which culminates for the undisputed welterweight title at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas between Errol Spence and Terence Crawford on Saturday night, begins in the early morning hours on Tuesday for Stateside fans as Naoya Inoue challenges unified junior featherweight champion, Stephen Fulton, from the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

Simply put, you wont fight two better, or more significant fights on the calendar.

Stephen Fulton vs Naoya Inoue | OFFICIAL TRAILER | The Fight You've Been Waiting For


But this column will focus on the battle from 'the Land of the Rising Sun' that features the Ring Magazine's second ranked pound-for-pound fighter in Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), who is looking to become a champion in his fourth weight class. 'The Monster' is one of the most accomplished boxers in recent time, having not only won the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight title, but then becoming undisputed champion in the division by defeating Paul Butler for the final belt(WBO) missing from his collection last December.

Picture for Early Morning ShowdownTop Rank

And in 'Scooter' Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs), he is facing the best at 122. While Marlon Tapales has the other two belts in the division, it's the native of Philly (who has the WBO and WBC around his waist) that is considered the best in this weight class according to Ring and most pundits.

Fulton is a well-schooled and technically sound boxer. One that is battle tested having the likes of Adam Lopez, Angelo Leo, Danny Roman and Brandon Figueroa on his ledger. While not a puncher, Fulton is one that has quick hands and live legs. But he has been touched up in the past, and Figueroa gave him a particularly tough time as he backed up along the ropes for long stretches in that grinding affair.

Yet keep this in mind, the 29-year old Fulton, is a career-long junior featherweight. The size advantage goes to him. But the home canvas advantage belongs to Inoue. Some have questioned why a unified champion is hitting the road for a fight of this magnitude. It's simple -- this is where the big yen is

Picture for Early Morning ShowdownNaoki Fukuda, Top Rank

For the first time in five years, Inoue, comes in as the challenger. And many have pointed out that while he is moving up in weight, and is the naturally smaller man, Inoue is accustomed to facing taller, rangier men. The question here is if he can corral Fulton's movement. He has a keen understanding of the challenge that lay ahead of him.

"Coming up to junior featherweight to be able to challenge Stephen Fulton for the title has given me great motivation. I get excited thinking about this fight and about how I will perform. I’ve been watching film of Fulton, and I think he is a very intelligent fighter," said Inoue.

Folks, set your alarm clocks.



Meanwhile, this past weekend from Shawnee, Oklahoma (the boxing dust bowl), Top Rank staged a card that saw George Kambosos get awarded a highly questionable 12 round decision over Maxi Hughes. Simply put, this looked like a flat out robbery. The southpaw Hughes seemed to have his way out-boxing Kambosos, who could never really get a bead on him. 

Hughes deserved better, and Kambosos should consider himself very fortunate. I really don't have much more to say other than that. 

Picture for Early Morning ShowdownMikey Williams/Top Rank

The co-main of this ESPN card, the highly touted Keyshawn Davis scored a wide unanimous 10-round decision over Francesco Pantera. Davis is a talented young lightweight, but on this night, he was solid, but not spectacular. Which isn't that big of a deal, but this is a boxer who will be fast-tracked from what I'm told. So at 9-0 (6 KOs), is Davis really ready for the elite at 135?

Keyshawn Davis Scored 1 Knockdown, Looks Dominate Against Patera | FIGHT HIGHLIGHTS


To these eyes, it still seems as though Davis needs more seasoning, and you're left wondering he's been active enough as a prospect. Keep this in mind, Davis still doesn't have 10 bouts under his belt after beginning his career in February of 2021. Now, there was a break in his pro run, as he was allowed to participate in the Olympics in Japan that had been postponed the previous summer. Then he's had some health issues related to his stomach that have impeded his progress.

Picture for Early Morning ShowdownMikey Williams/Top Rank

But to keep this in perspective, Oscar De La Hoya had 11 fights in his first 12 months as a pro. Floyd Mayweather had 12 bouts in his first year in the professional ranks. 

I understand the game is now watered down a bit, but doesn't activity matter, still?



Coverage of Inoue-Fulton begins on Tuesday morning at 4:30 pm, ET/1:30 pm, PT on ESPN+...WBO featherweight titlist, Robeisy Ramirez defends his belt versus Satoshi Shimizu on this undercard....Yeah, not much to say about the 'stacking' issue on Inoue-Fulton, to me, it's much ado about nothing....Yes, NFL team highlights were airing on NFL Network this past weekend. The season is upon us....'Goliath' (Wilt Chamberlain) on Showtime was pretty solid....I can be reached at




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Early Morning Showdown
SNAC founder Victor Conte has changed the world of sports nutrition forever.  ESPN magazine ranked him as the #1 pioneering sports scientist based on his work with world-class athletes for more than three decades. His dedication to science and innovation led to the development of ZMA, a groundbreaking nighttime recovery supplement that’s licensed by more than 140 brands around the globe.