By Paul Magno | July 24, 2023

This is THE fight week. The fight week of all fight weeks, at least among fight weeks in recent memory.  

In modern times, we don’t get a lot of “legit elite-level” fights. And when we do, they’re spaced far apart. This week, however, we get two great ones which not only feature great fighters, but which also feature those great fighters matched up against one another in truly meaningful bouts at a time when they actually matter a whole lot. I’m talking about, of course, Naoya Inoue vs. Stephen Fulton on Tuesday morning from Japan for Fulton’s WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles and Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford for all four welterweight belts on Saturday from Las Vegas. 

Fight fans are notoriously fickle, though, and some are doing their best to buzzkill everything.

The issue of Naoya Inoue’s hand wraps and alleged “stacking” (the process of stacking tape and gauze to create a cast of sorts) was brought up by Stephen Fulton’s trainer Wahid Rahim. This resulted in an ultimatum of sorts where the trainer threatened to pull his fighter from the bout if the issue was not addressed. 

Predictably, the topic set off a firestorm of social media unrest, which, also predictably, played to boxing’s obscene level of tribalism. One side declared Fulton chicken and lamented the American bias against foreign fighters. The other side declared Inoue a cheat and lamented the bias against American fighters.

Then, the Spence-Crawford critics-- mostly anti-PBC guys who were peddling a “PBC sucks because they won’t make Spence-Crawford” narrative until Spence-Crawford got signed-- chimed in. They moved into high gear with their efforts to shit on the second big fight of the week with complaints about tickets being too expensive and inaccessible to real fight fans. They also offered their slanted observations about there being “no buzz” for this fight. 

I don't know if Inoue is stacking or not. I haven't looked into it or into its legality in Japan. But whenever a fighter exhibits shocking, unusual power, you have to look into any irregularities with the wraps or gloves. As a trainer, you owe it to your fighter. It doesn’t matter if any of Inoue’s past opponents bothered to look into it. I was screaming about checking the gloves/wraps of Antonio Margarito, well before Plaster Gate (and I almost got booted from my own site's message board because of it) and I was right to be suspicious. Rahim has an obligation to look after the well-being of his guy. I think he has every right to address the concern. This is a valid boxing issue, although, the better time to address it would’ve been weeks ago, not three days before the fight. 

What I find funny, though, is that the same dipshits who say that Team Fulton is "ruining" Inoue-Fulton because of the hand wraps issue are also front and center in trying to "ruin" Spence-Crawford with "the tickets cost too much" and "there's no buzz for this fight" narratives. 

In case you haven’t noticed, boxing fans suck-- at least enough of them do to kind of ruin the fun of talking boxing online. And when agenda-wielding media creeps jump in and drop turds in the proverbial punch bowl just to mess with a particular promotion, things get all the more sucky. 

But, as of this writing, Inoue-Fulton is still on and so is Spence-Crawford, even as some social media dorks weep openly about not being able to afford ringside seats for themselves and their five kids. 

Inoue-Fulton piques my curiosity because of Inoue’s explosive physical presence meeting Fulton’s nuanced versatility. We know how “The Monster” is going to fight. We don’t know how Fulton’s going to play this. “Cool Boy Steph” is a very good boxer who can be slick. He’s also someone who can get in there and bang, as evidenced by his all-out battle with Brandon Figueroa. Inoue has never faced someone who fights as fluidly as Fulton and has never really dealt with “American style” boxing. But Fulton has also never dealt with someone like Inoue, who throws everything with crispness and electricity. There’s several ways this fight could turn out. 

Spence-Crawford, meanwhile, gives me more of a visceral charge because of my personal affinity for the welterweights. As someone who grew up with reverence for 147 lb. greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, and then Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather, the division means a lot more to me than any other. 

The fight, itself, is a beyond-compelling clash of styles and temperaments. Two no-nonsense guys in the ring, Spence is a nuanced juggernaut who chops, chops, chops opponents down while Crawford picks and prods until he finds the right opening to bust his opponent apart. You, literally, don’t get any better than Spence-Crawford, both in terms of its competitive aspect as well as its significance.

The price for anything nice in boxing, however, is the shittiness that must be endured on both social media and traditional media before we get the ring walks. Honestly, it it weren’t, marginally, a part of my gig as a boxing writer, I probably would ditch boxing social media altogether. That shit is fucking cancerous. 

At the end of the day, at least for me, all that matters is the fighting and I relish those moments where I’m not finding out about the mental states or undercover agendas of everyone watching. I’m going to enjoy myself-- twice-- this week, even if I have to wade through the muck and the mire to get to those happy places. 

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