Boxing fans rejoiced as rumours came to fruition through the announcement of Naoya Inoue versus Stephen Fulton, a boxing bout set to take place on May 7.

Inoue, nicknamed “The Monster” for his devastating knockout ability that has led to the end of 21 of his 24 fights, is attempting to become a four division champion. The Japanese boxer is a three division champion, having previously held titles at 108, 115, and 118 pound divisions. His last bout saw him become the undisputed bantamweight champion after winning the World Boxing Organization (WBO) 118 pound title with a knockout victory over Paul Butler this last December. Currently ranked the second best pound-for-pound boxer by The Ring magazine, The Monster represents the elite of the boxing world. Now, the undefeated boxer seeks to move up yet another weight class to challenge for the World Boxing Council (WBC) and WBO 122 pound titles, both currently held by the American unified champion, Fulton.

Fulton, currently ranked the best super bantamweight boxer by The Ring, became a unified champion after winning the WBC 122 pound title over Brandon Figueroa in November 2021. He defended both his belts in a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Roman this last June, and now prepares for the upcoming challenge of Inoue, who he will face in the Yokohama Arena in Japan. 

The bout adds to a possible return to form for boxing, marking the second super fight of the year behind the clash of third and fourth ranked lightweight superstars Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia, set for April 22 in Las Vegas. Events of this kind featuring two undefeated boxers in their prime fighting the toughest competition available have become an increasingly rare occurrence for boxing.

In the last year alone, one of boxing’s most anticipated matchups fell apart. A bout between welterweight superstars Errol Spence Jr. and Terrence Crawford, ranked fourth and third pound for pound respectively by The Ring, was scheduled for last November. The fight fell apart after Crawford pointed out the fact that there was a lack of transparency in regards to how much money the event would generate. This would allow him to determine whether his purse is proportional to the success of the bout. Despite receiving a revised contract from Spence’s team, Crawford did not respond.

Negotiations are supposedly continuing, but with recent news of Errol Spence Jr. eyeing a fight against Keith Thurman at 154 pounds, fans are not holding their breath. A lack of competitive bouts between top competition has become commonplace for boxing. The overvaluation of fighters and under performance of pay per views has led to frequent issues in regards to purse splits. This along with other common issues in negotiations has caused a decrease in traditional boxing’s popularity. 

On the other hand, celebrity boxing has skyrocketed in popularity. Celebrity or influencer boxing replaces the need for top-level competition with an emphasis on narrative. By creating a story of rivalry between two celebrities, viewers are drawn in without the need for championship belts, unbeaten records, and boxing ability. Furthermore, celebrity fights have an immediate audience thanks to the fans of the influencers participating. A recent celebrity fight, Jake Paul versus Tommy Fury, did 775,000 pay-per-view sales. In comparison, Crawford’s outing against former champion Shawn Porter did only 135,000 pay-per-view sales. 

Inoue versus Fulton is an exemption to the trend regarding super fights, with both fighters having made concessions unlike their peers. Inoue has vacated all four of his titles at 118 pounds and will be at a significant size disadvantage, while Fulton has agreed for the bout to take place in Japan, which will mark his first time fighting outside the United States. Fights such as this are an outlier in the modern day, which may signal a return to form for boxing if they prove to be successful.