Stephen Fulton Jr. was sitting with his girlfriend, Tiffany Jubilee, and then-eight-month-old son, Muqtadir, in their Southwest Philadelphia apartment in June when they heard gunshots outside.
Tiffany grabbed Muqtadir. Fulton rose, peered through the open window and saw a dead man, blood pouring from his head. The violence was another day in the neighborhood, but this time, it was too close. Two weeks later, Fulton relocated the family to Northeast Philly.
Born and raised in the boxing-rich city of Philadelphia, Fulton endured crime and violence that cost many friends their lives. Stephen Sr. missed the first 10 years of his son’s life due to a jail sentence, but returned to introduce “Scooter” to boxing, likely saving his life.
Trained by Hamza Muhammad out of the James Shuler Boxing Gym in West Philadelphia, Fulton earned titles in the Silver and Golden Gloves, allowing him to form bonds with the likes of 130-pound former champion Gervonta Davis and left-handed 154-pound contender Erickson Lubin.
Fulton has proven throughout his early rise in the up the 122-pound ranks to have the skills to not only beat, but dominate other rising prospects.
On September 19, Stephen Fulton (11-0, 5 KOs) will face his fifth unbeaten fighter in six bouts and his second straight in Adam Lopez (8-0, 3 KOs) of Glendale, California, at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
During a recent break from training, Fulton spoke on his family, admiration for Floyd Mayweather Jr., being fatherless early during a turbulent childhood that has made him the parent and fighter he has become.
What was your childhood like growing up in Philadelphia?
Being at a school where you have to walk through metal detectors, growing up with childhood friends getting killed and around people selling drugs. The people I knew who did sell drugs, I chose a different rout. I grew up my first 10 years without my father, and then, he came home.
Then my Dad, Stephen Fulton Sr., got me into boxing, and I began to focus all of my experiences growing up – like losing friend to the streets -- into the anger and the rage and the hostility in the ring. That’s given me all that I need to be successful.
Can you discuss what happened in June, when you and your family heard gunshots and discovered the body?
I heard a bunch of gunshots, and it was too close because the window was open. We actually had bullet holes in our wall. First thing Tiffany did was to grab our son.
I looked out the window to see blood pouring out of the man’s head. That’s not the first incident. I don’t want to say it’s normal, but, really, that’s the truth, because it is, hearing gunshots and things like that.
That, right there let me know that I had to get out of there and I had to protect my family. I moved a couple of weeks after that happened to Northeast, which is a little better. I have cameras around the house.
What does your son’s name mean?
His full name is Abdul Muqtadir, which means “The powerful one.” He’s not walking, yet. He’s almost a year old. I started walking him around the track, so I expect him to start walking, soon.
“ I heard a bunch of gunshots, and it was too close because the window was open. We actually had bullet holes in our wall. ” Stephen Fulton
What are your thoughts about friends you’ve lost, such as 23-year-old Kyrell Tyler, a popular dirt-bike rider who was shot and killed in 2014?
That was hard. We grew up together. He had a son like do, now. I understand the connection that they had, and he left his son, early. The way Kyrell was killed was the same way his father was killed when he was a baby. That resonated in Philadelphia with everybody, including [rapper] Meek Mill.
Kyrell was the one on our block that we thought was untouchable, the biggest, the strongest daredevil on the bike that could do anything. We all grew up with that mentality. So to have somebody that close to you go out like that, that was tough.
How do you characterize your relationship with your trainer, Hamza Muhammad, and are you still out of the James Shuler Boxing Gym?
Hamza Muhammad’s been there since Day One, and it’s a big brother-little brother, Bat Man and Robin-type of relationship. As far as the gym, there’s [126-pound title challenger] Eric Hunter, and I’ve sparred with a lot of fast, slick top-level fighters.
What did you learn from and what do you feel you proved during your rout of unbeaten, hard-punching southpaw Luis Rosario?
I didn’t like my performance, actually, because I wanted to rumble and knock him out. I kept listening to my corner, and they wanted me to remain composed and to box, so I did that.
At the end of the night, I almost shut him out, and the consensus is that I looked good, and I schooled him. But this next fight, they want me to rumble.
Given that Adam Lopez will be your fifth undefeated opponent in six fights, and your second in a row, do you anticipate him being as tough as Rosario?
I don’t ever go into a fight looking for the knockout, but if I see the opening, I’ll take the shot. I’m looking for him to press me, and they’ll be looking for me to box, which is not going to happen.
I know what to expect from him, but I’m looking to see if he can fight going backwards. I can fight many styles and make adjustments.
He’s seen me box, but he hasn’t seen me get rough. I feel I don’t have too much more to prove, but I’m going to show that I’ve arrived and I’m here to stay.
Do you have a boxing hero or fighter whom you admire?
Eric Hunter and Floyd Mayweather. I’ve been in Eric’s corner, seen how he fights, I’ve been there through his ups and downs. I’ve watched him stay focused coming back from losses and staying ready.
I look up to him, but after him, I look up to Floyd. I’ve watched him hit, not get hit, and deal with the social media and the bashings that he takes.
Of all the boxers in history, who do you wish you could’ve fought, and how would the fight have played out?
I would say Floyd, because no one has beaten him. That would be a challenge to see what I could do differently from his opponents. I would make him come to me.
But if he wanted to stand there, I would stand there all day. Floyd’s got a mean lead right hand, so I would have to pivot. Or Sugar Ray Leonard, and that would be a rumble, but I would have to box him, too.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
No doubt, I would be in the streets. I say that because before I started boxing, it was looking that way. I started realizing that I was looking up drug dealers.
What’s the hardest you’ve ever been hit, and how you did you deal with it?
That was in my ninth fight against Adalberto Zorrilla from Puerto Rico. He came in at 6-0, all knockouts, and he hit me with a straight right hand that buzzed me and dropped me. But that just turned the switch on, and I got right up and I knocked him out in the fourth round.
What about a favorite punch to throw?
That’s my left hook. I have a powerful left hand, and that’s my go-to punch. I used it against Zorrilla and I did it in the fight after that against Cristian Renteria when I stopped him in the third round.
Do you have a favorite boxing movie?
I liked Denzel Washington in “The Hurricane.” He was a black fighter who was blackballed and they put him in jail and ruined his career.
But he’s a fighter, so he stayed tough and he dealt with it. He had that mentality where he wouldn’t be broken. I actually watched that movie before I fought Rosario.
If you could have dinner with any four people in history, living or dead, who would they be?
I would say my father, because he missed the first 10 years of my life locked up from robbing a bank, trying to provide. We never had that connection that my son and I have, and I know that he looks at my son and I and I know that does something to him on the inside.
The next person would probably be someone like Jay-Z, who has been in the game for a long time and who could give me knowledge as a rapper, because I like to rap.
I would also pick Floyd. I’ve never met him. The next one I’d pick would be Kobe Bryant for his mentality, focus and drive. The two of them, Floyd and Kobe, they’re composed against all of the challenges they’ve faced in their sports.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would change the hatred toward one another. That’s what’s holding a lot of people back. It holds everyone back.