Stephen Fulton has taken a proactive approach for his next fight as an undisputed clash remains outside of his grasp.
A petition filed by the unified WBC/WBO junior featherweight title to next compete at featherweight was unanimously approved by the WBC Board of Governors on Wednesday during its convention in Acapulco, Mexico. The ruling also confirms plans for Fulton to face Brandon Figueroa in a rematch to their terrific clash from last November, this time with the interim WBC featherweight title at stake.
The interim title was made available since current and recently crowned WBC featherweight titlist Rey Vargas was approved to next face O’Shaquie Foster for the sanctioning body’s vacant junior lightweight title.
“We received a petition to have number-one contender Figueroa to have a rematch with Fulton, who conquered the (WBC) title against Figueroa at super bantamweight,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman noted in approving the fight. “We allow Fulton to move up to featherweight and fight Brandon Figueroa for the WBC interim featherweight championship.
“If Vargas does not return, that fight will be for the (full) title. Otherwise, the winner will fight Vargas.”
Vargas (36-0, 22KOs) won the WBC featherweight title in a twelve-round decision over then-unbeaten Mark Magsayo (26-1, 20KOs) on July 9 in San Antonio, Texas. An effort was made to have Vargas face WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs), though the fight fell through due to complications beyond the fighters’ control.
Once that occurred, Vargas sought permission to challenge for the recently vacated WBC junior lightweight title. Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9KOs) was stripped of the WBC/WBO titles at the scales after missing weight ahead of a September 23 points win over Robson Conceicao in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
Vargas’ bid to become a three-division titlist opened the door for Fulton (21-0, 8KOs) to get a head start on conquering his second weight division. The 28-year-old unified titlist from Philadelphia has aimed for an undisputed showdown with WBA ‘Super/IBF titlist Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8KOs), who is pressed with an already ordered IBF mandatory title defense against Marlon Tapales.
Fulton is in the voluntary phase of his title reign, as his June 4 win over the now retired Daniel Roman was recognized as a double mandatory with the WBC and WBO. Fulton inherited the WBC-mandated title defense against Roman following his majority decision win over Figueroa in their Fight of the Year-level battle last November 27 in Las Vegas.
Figueroa expressed his interest in a rematch at the time, but likely to come at featherweight where he now campaigns. The 25-year-old Weslaco, Texas native returned to the win column with a sixth-round knockout of Carlos Castro in their semifinal title eliminator on the same July 9 Showtime card that saw Vargas defeat Magsayo.
A date was not confirmed for the ordered Fulton-Figueroa interim title fight, though there are two options awaiting the winner.
Vargas will be required to face the designated interim titlist should he return to featherweight after his bout with Foster. If Vargas remains at junior lightweight, the Fulton-Figueroa winner will be upgraded to full titlist and ordered to make a mandatory title defense. The final contender will come from another fight ordered during the convention, as The Philippines’ Magsayo was approved to next meet former WBO junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe in a WBC-sanctioned final eliminator.
Fulton, Figueroa and Magsayo all fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner, with Magsayo additionally represented by Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions. Dogboe is represented by Top Rank, whose on-site representative Don Majeski confirmed to the WBC of the fighter’s availability for whatever was planned.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox