A battle with COVID-19 and a lost world title shot has made the undefeated Philly native hungrier and wiser as he prepares to face WBO World Super Bantamweight Champion Angelo Leo in a 122-pound showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
In late July of last year, Stephen “Scooter” Fulton found himself curled up with a shirt pulled over his head in the backseat of a car on a winding, bucolic Connecticut road. He couldn’t contain himself. A guttural cry was followed by fist pounding on the leather seats, trying to recover from a potential life-changing gut punch, as if something dear had died—like his career.
Wahid Rahim, Fulton’s trainer, always had answers for Fulton.
This time, he didn’t.
Though, Rahim did have a thought. They pulled by the side of the road and they prayed.
Moments earlier, they were both kicked out of a hotel after being told they had tested positive for COVID-19. Gone went Fulton’s chances to fight Angelo Leo on August 1 on national TV for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title. Fulton thought his career was finished.
Fast-forward to today, Fulton will tell you it may have been the best thing that ever happened to him.
The 122-pound Philadelphia fighter will get the chance he thought he blew back in August, when he takes on the 122-pound WBO world champion Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) on the first SHOWTIME Championship Boxing telecast of 2021 this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from the Mohegan Sun Arena, in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The timing could not be better for Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs).
“Faith in God and faith in myself are what got me through this whole thing,” Fulton said. “I actually feel stronger than I ever have, not just stronger physically, but mentally. I thought I lost my entire career because of COVID-19.
“I’ll say this, because no one knows what a fighter goes through to prepare for a fight, you have a lot of people in your lives to support. I was making some changes in my life. I was determined I had to begin making more life decisions on my own. I saw something almost being taken away from me in the blink of an eye.”
That’s what frightened Fulton the most.
“I remember telling Stephen that we didn’t get that (first Leo) fight for a reason,” Rahim recalled. “I remember getting through the rest of that ride home that day and Scooter started to smile and we started talking. I remember we took another test and we both came out positive, and Scooter grabbed me and hugged me.
“That told me mentally Scooter got his mind right. Who knows what would have happened to him if he won that belt in August and how that would have changed him? He understands where he is going. He has a chance to win generational wealth. Someone will pay for what Scooter went through. He went through a lot of pain but came through the other end stronger.”
“ I know what’s ahead this year and this is the beginning. ” Undefeated Super Bantamweight Contender - Stephen Fulton Jr.
Fulton is adamant about not feeling any lingering effects from COVID. He says what scared him was waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the shakes. He won’t forget the abrupt knock on his hotel door by staff early one morning and told to pack his things and leave.
One moment he was being catered to as a main event fighter with the world at his feet, the next he was being escorted out to the street.
“I learned it takes only one small mistake to open other things up, and you’re nothing. I kept thinking my boxing could be taken away,” Fulton said. “It made me grow up. It did. I made me appreciate my sport and those around me who have love for me.
“I’m a world-class fighter who I have to admit took his health for granted. I don’t anymore. My back, my arms, my knees, my legs and I had headaches, it was like every part of me hurt. When I woke up one morning without the aches, I knew then I was beginning to heal.
“I’m at the stage where I just want to fight.”
Leo is the third-straight undefeated fighter Fulton is facing. He’s the eighth overall on Fulton’s record.
Both fighters are 26. They both fight out of an orthodox stance. At 5-foot-6½, Fulton is half-an-inch taller than the 5-foot-6 Leo and possesses a 70½-inch reach, which is greater than Leo’s 69-inch range.
Fulton also feels he has the greater experience and the faster hands.
“I’ve been tested, Leo hasn’t, not like me,” Fulton said. “I don’t even care about my hair (laughs). I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the COVID-19 experience. Leo to me is one-dimensional. He has one style; he’ll come straight forward and try to pressure me.
“He doesn’t have my hand speed or my boxing skills. He’s no threat to me. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good fighter, but he’s not good enough to beat me. Only I can beat me. I know what’s ahead this year and this is the beginning. I haven’t fought in a year. I want 2021 to be a big year for me. I have my ways of wanting things to go a certain way. If things change, and they have, I’ll adapt.”
Fulton is looking to fight two more times this year.
Rahim says he’s never seen Fulton as determined, dedicated and disciplined as he is now.
“This is the best I’ve seen Scooter and I’ll tell you right now, with everything I see, Scooter is going to stop Leo,” Rahim said. “Scooter’s been boxing his whole life. He never went through what he did last year. He really was afraid he would never fight for a title again.
“He won’t ever take boxing for granted again.”
For a closer look at Stephen Fulton, check out his fighter page.
- Stephen Fulton