Stephen Fulton will be one of the most interested observers seated Saturday night inside Dignity Health Sports Park.
The undefeated Fulton is scheduled to fight the winner of Showtime’s main event, a 12-round, 122-pound title bout between unbeaten champions Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa. Fulton doesn’t have a preference, but the WBO junior featherweight champion told BoxingScene.com that he thinks Figueroa will win a close fight in Carson, California.
Fulton feels Figueroa’s size and style will help him overcome the unbeaten Mexican southpaw who’ll defend his WBC super bantamweight championship for the first time.
“I think Brandon edges it, only because I feel like Luis Nery is still adjusting to moving up in weight,” Fulton said. “And Nery’s kind of a small guy. I like the way Brandon fights a little bit. It’s too different styles, but Brandon’s style may overwhelm him a little bit, in my eyes. If Brandon Figueroa can keep that pace up and fight how he always fights, he may pull it off. I think I’ve got Brandon edging the fight.”
Philadelphia’s Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs), who will be part of Showtime’s broadcast team for this tripleheader, acknowledged that Figueroa’s defensive flaws could benefit Nery and help the former WBC bantamweight champ prove him wrong.
“That’s another thing,” Fulton said. “That’s why I say I’m giving [Figueroa] the edge, but I still don’t fully know who will win it. That definitely could help [Nery], but who’s to say Brandon wasn’t working on those type of tactics in camp this go-around? So, we’ll see.”
Fulton doesn’t consider Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) as powerful in the 122-pound division as he was at the 118-pound limit. Nery went the distance with countryman Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) on September 26, when Nery won a 12-round unanimous decision to take the then-vacant WBC super bantamweight crown at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Figueroa (21-0-1, 14 KOs) is much more accustomed than Nery to the super bantamweight division, yet Fulton recalls how unimpressed he was with Figueroa’s performance in the 24-year-old champion’s surprising 12-round split draw with Julio Ceja (32-4-1, 28 KOs) in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Whoever wins Saturday night, Fulton can’t wait to fight Figueroa or Nery on September 11 at a site to be determined. The 26-year-old Fulton could’ve pursued a less imposing opponent for his first defense of a WBO belt he won by beating Angelo Leo on January 23 at Mohegan Sun Arena, but the ambitious champion wants to make history.
“I wanna be the first undisputed [champion] at this weight class,” Fulton said. “I’ve been stating that for years now. None of these other fighters in the weight class were stating that or yelling out they wanna be the first undisputed. I don’t even think people knew there was never an undisputed in this weight class until I started saying I wanted to be the first undisputed champion at the weight class. Now everyone wants to fight each other. I feel like I got the division back poppin’ and lit.”
Occupying this position has been particularly gratifying for Fulton after contracting COVID-19 last summer. He tested positive for the coronavirus July 29, three days before he was scheduled to square off against Albuquerque’s Leo in a 12-round fight for the then-vacant WBO 122-pound crown.
Leo defeated Fulton’s late replacement, previously unbeaten southpaw Tramaine Williams, by unanimous decision to win the unclaimed championship August 1 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The affable Fulton took a few months off from training, so that he would fully recover from COVID-19. He took full advantage of his opportunity once his fight with Leo was rescheduled by beating Leo (20-1, 9 KOs) by huge margins on all three scorecards (119-109, 119-109, 118-110).
Three months later, Fulton will find out Saturday night which champion he’ll battle for another title. Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, and Tijuana’s Nery will headline Showtime’s three-bout broadcast, which is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. ET.
“I wanna see how they look and who’s gonna come out on top in that fight,” Fulton said. “But at the end of the day, I feel like officially now I’m the big money fight for that weight class. I feel like I’m the target. So, whoever wins, they’re gonna have to hop right back in the gym. They’re gonna enjoy themselves, but they’re gonna have to hop right back in the gym.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.