Stephen Fulton Jr. started 2020 as the man next up for a WBO super bantamweight title shot, and a year later he finally got his crack at the title.
Fulton (19-0-0 8KOs) was able to outbox and outlast Angelo Leo (20-1-0 9KOs) who won the title earlier this year. Fulton vs Leo was originally scheduled for August, but Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 in the lead up to the fight, and would not have the proper clearance time for the fight to have taken place. Leo faced the next man up in Tramaine Williams and proved his worth by winning the unanimous decision for the title.
The 2nd delay came when Leo tested positive for the disease in December. Now with each man having been through the wringer, the fight was finally set for January as the main event on Showtime.
Fulton and Leo met Saturday for their year in the making fight, and it would have been impossible to tell that either man had ever been sick. At the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville Connecticut, the two men battled hard for a full 12 rounds. Together the fighters threw 1,993 combined punches and Fulton himself threw 1,193 of those. It was an all-action fight, that tested the cardio of both men, and the audience at home.
Leo found some success early, as the usually slick Fulton found himself eating some punches from Leo’s interior attack. Fulton was able to make an adjustment in the middle rounds and step on the gas and he took control of the fight. “I noticed he was landing a lot of good, clean right hands as I was pulling back,” Fulton said. “That was some of the things my trainer told me not to do when we were in the dressing room. But I made the adjustments like I always do.” Fulton would win the final 8 rounds on the judge’s scorecards, mostly by taking the fight right back to Leo and beating him at his own game on the inside. After exhausting Leo, Fulton was able to jab effectively from the outside as the fight grew into championship rounds.
His performance was a bit of a surprise to some in the boxing community. Fulton had never faced a fight of Leo’s caliber or tenacity and his test meant Fulton had to fight in a why some considered out of character. “I knew what I came to do,” Fulton said in his post-fight news conference. “I came to make a statement and fight this guy. I didn’t come to just box. I came to fight him. And that’s what I did.” Fulton was the wide winner on all the cards, with a UD of 118-110, 119-111, 119-111.
Fulton is now looking to add to his legacy and collection. “I want champions,” Fulton said. “I want to be undisputed.” Philadelphia’s newest champion would have to take on WBC champion Luis Neary and WBA/IBF titleholder Murodjon Akhmadaliev to make that happen. We’ll see what belts go where, but for now, the WBO title is at home in Philadelphia.