LAS VEGAS – Ra’esse Aleem assumed earlier this year that he would’ve already fought for a world title by now.

As Aleem understood it, he was the WBA’s mandatory challenger for its “super” 122-pound champion, Murodjon Akhmadaliev. He held the WBA’s interim title in the super bantamweight division until the WBA wisely eliminated interim championships late in August and was ranked number one by that sanctioning organization.

When the WBA ordered Aleem to face third-rated Avat Hovhannisyan in another WBA eliminator, however, Aleem and his promoter, Marshall Kauffman, determined that he would take another route toward a title shot. The unbeaten Aleem now is focused on fighting for the WBO belt that Stephen Fulton will take into his title unification fight against WBC champ Brandon Figueroa on Saturday night at Park MGM’s Dolby Live.

Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs), a Las Vegas resident raised in Muskegon, Michigan, is ranked 11th among the WBO’s junior featherweight contenders. If he defeats Eduardo Baez in Showtime’s co-feature before it airs Figueroa-Fulton, Aleem and his team have been informed that he’ll climb numerous spots in the WBO’s ratings.

Mexicali’s Baez (20-1-2, 7 KOs) has won nine straight fights since his 10-round split draw with countryman Alfredo Vargas (then 9-1-2) in May 2018.

“He’s an extremely tough fighter,” Aleem told “You know, he’s tall, he’s lanky. He’s coming to fight. You know, he’s almost like Figueroa. He wants to overwhelm you. He’ll put his forehead in yours if you allow him, so it’s gonna be a war. I’m fighting a guy who wants to come forward, who only really knows how to come forward. He doesn’t how to box. He doesn’t counter-punch. He wants to come forward and he wants to throw punches, so it’s gonna make for an exciting fight and you have to tune in to see what happens.”

Aleem overwhelmed previously unbeaten southpaw Vic Pasillas in his most recent action. After flooring Pasillas (16-1, 9 KOs) once apiece in the second, sixth, ninth and 11th rounds, their scheduled 12-rounder was stopped a minute into the 11th round January 23 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Three straight technical-knockout victories in fights Showtime televised have elevated Aleem’s profile. The 31-year-old contender understands, though, that he still needs a signature win over a 122-pound champion to cement himself at the elite level of his division.

“It’s all about beating somebody,” Aleem said. “You’ve gotta beat somebody to be somebody. You know, so I just wanna beat the big names. I’m very thankful for Showtime and PBC, to be able to fight on this platform. I wanna be like one of the best Showtime fighters ever. … I wish I woulda been able to fight one more time [in 2021], so fans would have been able to see more of me. But that just gives me even more of a reason to put on a show, to show people who Ra’eese Aleem is and what I’m about.”

Showtime’s telecast is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT with a 10-rounder in which bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell (18-0, 12 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will meet Mexico’s Alexandro Santiago (24-2-5, 13 KOs). Following the Aleem-Baez bout, Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, and Philadelphia’s Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) will square off in the 12-round main event.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.