This Saturday night, boxing will hope to crown a unified champion in the Super Bantamweight division. Showtime Boxing will be hosting this event live from the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. WBO Champion Stephen Fulton Jr (19-0) faces WBC Champion Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1).
A native of Philadelphia, PA Stephen Fulton Jr. is looking to make this year his by capturing two world titles within his division. The 27 year-old has been patient, climbed the ranks, and positioned himself for this opportunity by putting in that hard work.
A few weeks after everyone celebrated the New Year, Stephen Fulton Jr. stepped into the ring for his first world title opportunity against Angelo Leo (20-1). Leo was coming off of an impressive decision victory against Tremaine Williams (19-1), who was undefeated coming into the fight. So the stage was set, and although most knew Fulton Jr. was the more talented fighter, the verdict was still out, and fans thought it was Leo's fight to win.
Fulton Jr. could have made the fight easier but decided to brawl the brawler. Stephen showed different dimensions to his game, whether inside, outside, or mid-range, Fulton Jr. dominated the fight.
I was curious to know why he decided to go that route. “Honestly, that came about because I always like fighting. When I'm in the gym sparring, that's how I prefer to do it. ”
Fulton continued, “People were telling me to make the fight easy, but the whole time, I was preparing myself to do that (fight on the inside). I knew that eventually, I would have to resort to that. I don't know why I started on the inside earlier, but once I started, I didn't want to stop! The game plan worked, and Fulton Jr. won by unanimous decision to become the new WBO champion.
During the lead-up to the fight, Showtime announced that the winner of the Fulton Jr-Leo fight would then face the winner of Figueroa- Nery. Once May came around, and Figueroa KO'd Nery, it was time for Stephen Fulton Jr. and Brandon Figueroa to get it on.
Fulton Jr. jumped into the ring after Figueroa's victory and put a stamp on the announcement.
Fulton Jr. climbing into the ring like that after the Figueroa fight brought up a little déjà vu as a couple of years ago, he did the same thing while calling for the fight.
Timing is everything, and in today's boxing world, marination is the name of the game, and this situation was no different. Luckily, it worked out, but as we all know, that doesn't happen as often as we would like to see it.
Looking back, did Fulton Jr. have any regrets about the fight not happening back then? “Yeah, kind of. I felt at that point that they wanted to go in a different direction, and I understood it. I wasn't going to press the issue and was going to keep winning while he did the same. He had lighter fights than I did. Right after I fought Avelar, I fought Arnold Khegai, another undefeated fighter, while he was fighting guys in ball shorts with track sneaks on. We both continued to win, but our wins were different.”
Although there was some sarcasm in that answer, I respect what he said while showing patience to “wait it out.”
The fight was announced for September, and Stephen Fulton Jr. was in camp mode throughout the summer. Two weeks before the fight, he gets the news that the fight will be rescheduled due to Figueroa catching COVID. When you're dealing with cancellations or fights being rescheduled, that affects more than just the calendar. These fighters are humans who have plans and life events they want to be a part of, and people get paid when they fight, no freebies in the fight game.
Fulton Jr is no different, and when the fight was announced that it would be rescheduled, it affected his personal life as well. “The delay cost me my son's (Muqtadir) fifth birthday. I wasn't able to enjoy it with him. His birthday was Sept 29th, and at that point, I still didn't know the new date of the fight. There were also other activities I had planned that I couldn't do because of the fight being rescheduled. It's also Thanksgiving because I damn sure want to eat. It's just been a lot of sacrifices.”
The fight is finally here, and I asked him about the training camp for this fight. “Right now, I'm currently in Vegas as I've been here two weeks. I was in Vegas for the last camp but then left and came back to Philadelphia and trained at Danny Garcia's gym. I was isolated, with only Danny and his father (Angel) checking in to help out in this camp.” It makes sense to get adjusted to the time difference while also getting some quality sparring in Vegas before the fight.
Starting and stopping camps can't be easy for any fighter. Was there a difference between this camp and the last one? The 27-year-old said, “It wasn't the right time for the fight because if it were, it would have happened. I took that and ran with it.”
He continued, “I feel like everything happens for a reason. You have to trust in God's work. It gave me a chance to gain my weight back and train while I had the weight. I was also able to give my body some rest, and it showed a different side of me.”
This fight is the biggest of their young careers, but for Fulton Jr., it means THAT much more, which is why he brought in his father to be in his corner. For the first ten years of Fulton Jr.'s life, his dad was in prison, and after being released, he was the one that introduced boxing to Stephen. Fulton Jr. had this to say about adding his father for this fight: “This will be the first time that he will be working in my corner as he doesn't know too much about boxing, but I wanted him to be there for this fight, so I put him in my corner. ”
Does a victory and becoming a unified champion give Stephen Fulton Jr. the momentum he needs to become part of mainstream boxing?
“Yes, this is because of the caliber of the guy I'm fighting. After I stop him, I can't be denied.”
Towards the end of the Zoom, I asked him if he had anything to say to Brandon Figueroa if he reads this article?
“Bring you're A-game because I know you’re coming. Be smart, because I know I will, and let's make it an interesting fight.”
What will watchers on 11-27 see? “First and foremost, they are going to see a smart, intelligent fighter, then they are going to see the dirty Philly side of me. The one that wants to go to war!”
My Three Cents
If you are a fan of the website, you know that we cover the big stories and ensure that fights like this one, which involves some young gunns, are given the proper attention. These two fighters deserve the bright lights on them because they define the term “the best fighting the best.”
Will Stephen Fulton Jr. shows yet another wrinkle to his game, level up, and capture a second title in less than twelve months? Are we going to see Brandon Figueroa put it all together and make fans into believers?
Whatever you do, don't miss this Super Bantamweight unification fight on Saturday night live on Showtime at 7 pm PST/10 pm EST.