Everything about his title winning effort is a night that Angelo Leo will always remember, although he still longs for the day when he can truly celebrate the biggest achievement of his career to date.

Albuquerque’s Leo (20-0, 9KOs) was blessed with the privilege of headlining the first Showtime card during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic last August, doing so in a 12-round win over unbeaten Tramaine Williams to win a 122-pound belt. The fight was to have come versus Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (18-0, 8KOs), who tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Williams, a southpaw who accepted the fight on three days’ notice. 

Other than the style adjustment, everything went according to plan in the ring for Leo. The aftermath, however, wasn’t quite the victory lap he’d always pictured.

“I've always wanted it to be with a crowd,” Leo admitted to BoxingScene.com of the celebration he always expected under normal circumstances. "I’ve always envisioned it being that way, coming home to a big crowd and a lot of people there to celebrate with me. With COVID, that made it impossible.

“That was the first thing. The second was that everything was shut down at the time. I wasn’t able to actually enjoy the luxuries of being a world champion.”

Leo will at least enjoy the benefit of entering the ring as the defending titlist for his first fight of the new year. It will come versus Fulton, who has since fully recovered and is back in position as mandatory challenger for their forthcoming title fight which headlines the first Showtime Championship Boxing event of 2021. The fight takes place this Saturday, live from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut where Leo won the belt five months ago.

A win will go a long way towards landing major paydays within reach in the jam-packed 122-pound division. Showtime enjoys working relationships with Mayweather Promotions—Leo’s promoter—and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), the latter which boasts a surplus of junior featherweight talent.

At the very least, it will fill the void of a parade that hasn’t yet been held in his honor.

“There’s a lot at stake (this) weekend,” admits Leo. “But I’ve proven that I’m ready for it. Winning this fight, landing big fights with all of the names in the division, those are the things I’ve always dreamt about.

“This fight will be the first time I get to feel like a champion, something I haven’t really been able to enjoy due to [the pandemic]. It just gives me additional motivation to stay champion and to experience those things.” 

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox