Winning the title was never the end game for Angelo Leo.

Defending it is a step in that direction, though more so an opportunity to show all the things he didn’t have the chance to offer in his last outing.

“Fans definitely didn’t get to see the best of me yet, because that wasn’t even my best performance that night,” Leo told ahead of his upcoming 122-pound title defense versus unbeaten Stephen Fulton. 

The Jan. 23rd headliner—which airs live on Showtime from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut—comes five months after the pair of unbeaten junior featherweights were first due to collide.

Leo and Fulton were set to fight for the vacant title last August, atop the first Showtime card since the pandemic. Philadelphia’s Fulton (18-0, 8KOs) was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19 during fight week, leaving Albuquerque’s Leo (20-0, 9KOs) to face then-unbeaten Tramaine Williams (19-1, 6KOs) on just three days’ notice. The new pairing came against a southpaw boxer, a style in stark contrast to that of the conventional style of Fulton. The 26-year old boxer—who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—made the most of the night, scoring a lopsided 12-round decision though in a performance which he knows there remains plenty of room for improvement.

“We got the job done. There’s a lot more that I have to do,” admits Leo, who attempts his first title defense with the rescheduled bout. “It’s hard to prepare for someone on three days’ notice. We had two months to prepare for a righty in Fulton and then—boom—we’re fighting a slick southpaw on three days’ notice. We had to make the best of it.”

Interestingly, Leo entered their originally scheduled fight as a +300 underdog (Fulton entered as a -400 betting favorite). The current odds have been bet down by more than half, with Leo as low as +130 with some sportsbooks though nevertheless still entering as the betting underdog. 

Perhaps it’s just further proof that the world has yet to see the defending titlist at his very best.

“I think that a lot of people still underestimate me,” notes Leo. “I just think that with Fulton’s résumé, him having those wins over unbeaten fighters, it could sway opinion to believe he should be the favorite.  A lot of people have seen him a lot more on Showtime and other networks than they’ve seen me.

“That’s fine, though. I like being the underdog. I like being the guy that has to upset the odds.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox