LAS VEGAS – Stephen Fulton cannot envision Murodjon Akhmadaliev moving in a different direction if he is presented with an opportunity to fully unify boxing’s 122-pound championships at some point in the first half of 2022.
Akhmadaliev is the only opponent Fulton wants to pursue if he beats Brandon Figueroa on Saturday night in their 12-round title unification fight at Park MGM’s Dolby Live. Defeating Figueroa would leave Fulton with two 122-pound crowns (WBC and WBO), whereas Akhmadaliev owns the IBF and WBA “super” belts.
“If I get past this fight, I don’t see MJ turning down that type of fight,” Fulton told BoxingScene.com. “When certain things are presented to you, sometimes you’ve gotta take them opportunities and run with ‘em and make the best out of the situation. And that’s what I’ll be doing November 27th.”
Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KOs) is a strong southpaw who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Philadelphia’s Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) is certain he has just the type of style and intelligence to befuddle Akhmadaliev and leave the ring as the sport’s undisputed 122-pound champion.
“I’ll beat him because I’m the bigger man, the smarter man, the more skillful man,” Fulton said. “I have more experience than him, so it’s things like that I can capitalize on in that fight. But more so, let me get past Brandon first.”
The 27-year-old Akhmadaliev most recently out-pointed Chile’s Jose Velasquez in a 12-round championship bout November 19.
Akhmadaliev got off to a strong start and appeared on his way to recording a first-round knockout. A resilient Velasquez (29-7-2, 19 KOs) withstood that rough start, however, and made Akhmadaliev work for a convincing victory on the Demetrius Andrade-Jason Quigley undercard at SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“I watched bits and pieces of it,” Fulton said. “He got caught with a little body shot, but it’s boxing. He came back from that and he won. That’s all that matters, is the victory.”
Fulton, 27, is a 3-1 favorite over Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, in their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event.
Just before Figueroa faces Fulton, an unbeaten 122-pound contender, Ra’eese Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs), of Muskegon, Michigan, and Mexico’s Eduardo Baez (20-1-2, 7 KOs) will square off in the 10-round co-feature. In the opener of this three-bout broadcast, bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell (18-0, 12 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will test himself against Alexandro Santiago (24-2-5, 13 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico.
Showtime’s coverage is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.