STEPHEN FULTON believes his 13-month layoff will serve him well when he fights Naoya Inoue on July 25.

The American is in Japan preparing for the biggest challenge of his career against ‘The Monster’. Fulton defends his two super-bantamweight belts with Inoue fighting in the 122lbs weight class for the first time.

When Fulton 21-0 (8) steps inside the ring at the Ariake Arena it will be his first bout since shutting out Daniel Roman in June 2022. Speaking to Dan Rafael on The Big Fight Weekend podcast the Philadelphia slickster explained his time away.

“The reason was I waiting to see what MJ [Murodjon Akhmadaliev] was gonna do. They was prolonging and now look what happened to him. That waiting and prolonging and he came up short.” Akhmadaliev lost his two super-bantamweight belts by split decision to Marlon Tapales in April this year.

The 29-year-old was asked if thought the inactivity would be a factor.

“No, I don’t think it’ll be a factor,” he answered sharply.

“I feel like I actually gave my body enough rest, my mind rest, not enough punishment for over a year. I feel like I’m gonna come out fresh. When you fight and win you get a month, a couple of months off. Then that first day back in the gym when you spar you feel amazing that’s how it’ll be.”

Fulton is not only going up against one of the best fighters in the world on July 25 but also one of the most devastating punchers this century. The record speaks for itself: 21 knockouts in 24 fights. One of Inoue’s favourite parts of the anatomy to hit is the mid-section which has crumpled many an opponent.

“I’m very aware of my situations going into any fight,” Fulton said.

“I don’t just train to train. I train for each fighter that I’m going up against. I feel like I’ll be ready and prepared to take on whatever he dishes out that night.”

In his 24 fights to date Inoue’s greatest challenge came against modern day legend Nonito Donaire during their first fight in November 2020. The Japanese destroyer won by unanimous decision but had his chin checked on several occasions and emerged from real moments of danger to keep his unbeaten record intact. In their rematch last year, it was a different story. Donaire fought like a man who thought he could repeat his performance, but Inoue corrected his own mistakes and ended the fight in the second round.

“He’s very talented, skilful, he’s more known for his power than anything but he’s very skilful,” Fulton said of Inoue.

“From what I see he’s a smart fighter, but I feel like no-one was really in the ring with him to challenge those mental skills yet.”

The interviewer tackled Fulton’s answer asking him if he didn’t believe Donaire challenged him mentally during their fight of the year contender.

“In that first fight I wouldn’t say Nonito challenged him mentally. I feel like Nonito was a dog so that’s what he wanted to do, that’s what got him hurt in the second fight by just trying to take the fight. He wasn’t really being a smart fighter for that second fight.

“The first fight it was like ah it was a nice fight but the second fight Inoue was already used to his style, already used to him. He came in that second fight with more confidence the second time. It was a good fight. I don’t think anyone really challenged him mentally yet.”