The undefeated super bantamweight aims to become undisputed world champion. First, he must get past the unbeaten Angelo Leo in a 122-pound world title showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
Stephen Fulton will take center stage when big-time prizefighting returns this Saturday, August 1, in tripleheader on PBC on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing (9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT).
As if the stage for the rising prospect Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) wasn’t prominent enough, waiting across from him will be top contender Angelo Leo (19-0, 9 KOs). On the line is the vacant WBO World 122-pound championship.
It’s a major step up for Philadelphia’s Fulton, who survived a rough upbringing in “The Bottom” and is ready to overcome another obstacle to achieve his championship dreams. The fight will also take place with no crowd at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“Certain things make a fighter uncomfortable, and I feel that I’ve been uncomfortable my entire life with the roads that I’ve had to take. I never had anything easy,” said Fulton. “I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve got and everything I’m soon to get, and I am coming to take what’s mine. It’s my time, now. Let’s rumble. I want to win and make a statement versus Angelo Leo.”
Earlier in July, former super bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete vacated his WBO title to move up in weight. Waiting in the wings were Fulton, the No. 1 ranked fighter by the sanctioning body, and Leo, who is ranked No. 2.
Fulton is no stranger to facing undefeated opponents. Joshua Greer and Adam Lopez are just two of the previous eight previous unbeatens he has successfully overcome.
Last January, Fulton handed Arnold Khegai his first loss with a brilliant display of textbook boxing. But the road to the undefeated Leo was something Fulton had never experienced before: The seemingly insurmountable circumstances caused by coronavirus.
Fulton was forced to switch course. Since June, he’s been training in gyms in Chester, a town about 15 minutes outside of Philly. With gyms not always open during the pandemic, Fulton has hit the streets running to maintain his stamina. He’s even had to spend time without trainer Hamza Muhammad, working on his own because of social distancing guidelines.
“I was wondering when I was going to fight. I felt that it was coming soon, so I started training,” said Fulton. “I’m training in quarantine. I’m not seeing any family or friends. That’s a part of the sacrifice that a lot of people won’t understand that we have to go through. I don’t want to risk anything with COVID-19 going around.”
Fulton will err on the side of caution until fight night by driving nearly five hours from Philly to Uncasville instead of taking a quick flight, in order to keep his body free of coronavirus. He’s already had a handful of COVID-19 tests in recent weeks. All of the results have come back negative.
“ Floyd [Mayweather] can offer advice, but he can’t go in there and fight for Leo. ” Undefeated Super Bantamweight Contender - Stephen Fulton
“I am training 10 times harder, but nothing in training has been difficult for me during the pandemic,” said Fulton. “I’m putting the work in and willing to go the extra miles. I’m willing to do anything extra. Why? Because I know what’s ahead of me. I want the title. That’s the goal. I have to walk through Leo to get to that. I’m going to be intelligent, yet still get my hands dirty.”
He may have to on Saturday. Leo, nicknamed “El Chinito,” tallied three knockdowns in notching an 11th-round TKO over veteran Cesar Juarez in their IBF and WBO world title eliminator last December.
The Las Vegas, Nevada, resident is unimpressed by Fulton’s talk of taking the zero away from unbeaten fighters.
“At the end of the day, it is a fight. He can boast about his resume all he wants,” said Leo. “We are both top five in the world, we are both undefeated, so it doesn't really matter once we get in there. He is not untouchable.”
Leo, a Mayweather Promotions fighter, also has the Fighter of the Decade advising him in Floyd Mayweather. Fulton is equally unimpressed.
“He has Floyd in his corner, but that doesn’t mean anything. Floyd can offer advice, but he can’t go in there and fight for Leo,” said Fulton. “He does not have the experience to withstand someone of my caliber. He hasn’t been tested. This is his biggest fight. There are more nerves running there than over here. Nothing really makes me nervous. I just get excited.”
Fulton has mapped out the next 18 months of his career. He plans to immediately call out WBC champion Rey Vargas should he win, and he still has a bone to pick with Brandon Figueroa, a WBA titlist he’s traded many barbs with before.
By the end of 2021, Fulton envisions being a unified and undisputed champion at 122 and ultimately, one at 126, 130 and 135 as well.
But first, the task at hand.
“I’m not underestimating or looking past Leo. I know I’ll get the job done,” said Fulton. “I’m ready to become Philadelphia's only active world champion. I’m going to be putting on for my whole city. Philly made me who I am with my attitude and mindset. I’d rather be a Philly fighter than anything else.
“Once I become WBO champ, I’m looking for unification fights. There is no need to wait. The pandemic has already proven everything can be taken away with a snap of a finger.”
For a closer look at Stephen Fulton, check out his fighter page.