Another intriguing fight has been removed from the schedule.
Brandon Figueroa has been forced to withdraw from a scheduled junior featherweight title unification clash with Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8KOs) after testing positive for Covid-19, both boxers confirmed Monday. Figueroa (22-0-1, 17KOs) was due to put his WBC title on the line in a bid to fight for Fulton’s WBO belt, with their bout to have headlined the September 18 edition of Showtime Championship Boxing from Park MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"My fight will be postponed till further notice as I tested positive for covid and so did my team/family," Figueroa announced Monday through his Instagram account. "I’ve worked so hard for this fight and was so close to finishing camp strong but unfortunately there was nothing more I could’ve done. I tried to let it pass and still manage to fight but I wasn’t feeling too well and especially being the last 2 weeks leading to my fight which are the most crucial.
"I just want to say thank you to all my fans and supporters, this is a fight I don’t want to let slip and I will come back stronger than ever. I’m gonna recover from this and come back and finish what I came to do and bring that belt back home. For the meantime I’m gonna continue and try to maintain myself in fight shape as my next fight date will be announced soon. I got to look after my health but my fighting spirit will never leave. Those of you that know Team Figueroa know that we never back down from a fight."
Figueroa and Fulton were both attempting the first defense of their respective titles they claimed earlier this year.
Philadelphia’s Fulton soundly outpointed unbeaten Angelo Leo to win the WBO belt this past January. The bout came five months after Fulton was originally scheduled to face Leo for the crown, only to have to withdraw due to testing positive for COVID shortly before the first Showtime card since the pandemic. Leo went on to face Tramaine Williams, whom he outpointed to win the vacant WBO belt before losing to Fulton earlier this year.
One other junior featherweight bout was to have taken place next weekend, with unbeaten Ra’eese Aleem (18-0, 12KOs) to face resurgent contender Eduardo Baez (19-1-2, 6KOs). The idea of either boxer stepping in to replace Figueroa in order to salvage the show would only result in delaying a more-desired Fulton-Figueroa unification bout, which could still take place later this year should Figueroa recover in time.
Figueroa earned the WBC belt by stopping unbeaten Luis Nery in the seventh round of their May 15 Showtime headliner at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Figueroa entered the bout with a secondary version of the WBA junior featherweight title, which he will be forced to vacate once he eventually enters the ring to face Fulton. The WBO does not recognize any other sanctioning body’s secondary titles, nor did the WBA approve Figueroa to enter a fight under such circumstances.
A new fight date is expected to be announced in the coming days. Fulton seems to believe it could take place as early as October, revealing such news while empathizing with his rival’s plight.
“Prayers out to Brandon hope he recover,” Fulton tweeted Monday upon learning the news. “I did everything great on my end. Testing sparing partners and coaches even isolating myself from my family and friends for months.
“Of course I am upset but I have been here before, I’ll be even stronger come October. Never make me mad!”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox