Angelo Leo realizes his impressive performance in his last fight didn’t sway some of his detractors.
The unbeaten Albuquerque native overwhelmed Tramaine Williams with his persistent pressure and body punching to win their 12-round, 122-pound title bout by unanimous decision five months ago. Leo left the ring that night with the previously unclaimed WBO junior featherweight title and became the first opponent to defeat Williams (19-1, 6 KOs, 1 NC).
The 26-year-old Leo (21-0, 9 KOs) still is a slight underdog entering his first title defense against Stephen Fulton on January 23 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Philadelphia’s Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) was supposed to battle Leo on August 1 at Mohegan Sun Arena, but Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 on July 29 and Williams replaced him on three days’ notice.
“I have a lot to prove,” Leo said during a virtual press conference. “This is just the beginning for me. I have a lot of doubters that are doubting me. I’m the underdog, so it’s just all fuel to the flame.”
Leo overcame a slow start versus Williams, took complete control of their bout by the middle rounds and won by huge margins on all three scorecards (118-110, 118-110, 117-111). Leo’s win was particularly impressive because he trained to face a right-handed fighter in Fulton and Williams is a southpaw.
“I definitely had to make some adjustments,” Leo said. “I was a little disappointed because, you know, all leading up to the fight, you know, we prepared for a righty. And then, three days before the fight we got a monkey wrench in Tramaine Williams. And he is a southpaw, so you know, we had to make a few adjustments. But, you know, like a true champion, you can always adapt, and I adjusted. I did what I had to do. You know, when I’m in shape like that, there was nothing that was gonna stop me. And that night, I was gonna become world champion.”
Defeating Fulton, who is also 26, would help legitimize Leo as a world champion because the skillful Fulton has scored victories over seven unbeaten boxers in the past 5½ years. Nevertheless, Leo will enter their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event with more confidence than he had before beating Williams.
“Being champion is what I always wanted to be, so now that I’ve got it, I’ve got the confidence,” Leo said. “But I don’t take my foot off the gas just because I’m champion. They say that once you’re champion, it’s harder. It’s harder because now, as bad as you want it, now everybody else wants it just as bad as you do. But my mentality is the same, you know. I’m world champion and I’m gunning for more world champions. So, I’m not the hunted. I’m still hunting.”
Showtime’s three-bout broadcast January 23 also will include a 12-round battle between Raesse Aleem (17-0, 10 KOs), of Muskegon, Michigan, and Vic Pasillas (16-0, 9 KOs), of Redwood City, California, for the WBA interim super bantamweight championship. The telecast will begin with another 12-rounder in which Las Vegas’ Rolando Romero (12-0, 10 KOs) will defend his WBA interim lightweight title against Houston’s Justin Pauldo (14-1, 7 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.