LAS VEGAS – Stephen Fulton wasn’t the least bit surprised Brandon Figueroa beat Luis Nery.
The undefeated Fulton predicted Figueroa would win their 122-pound title fight six months ago. Fulton considered Nery a true bantamweight boxing out of his weight class, whereas Figueroa had height and strength advantages Nery wouldn’t be able to overcome.
Figueroa was an underdog, but he walked through Nery’s supposedly superior power and overwhelmed the Mexican southpaw with relentless aggression, volume punching and a brutal body assault that eventually led to a seventh-round knockout May 15 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
“He was the bigger fighter, more stable at this weight class,” Fulton told BoxingScene.com. “Nery was just moving up. If I’m not mistaken, he’s going back down.”
The 24-year-old Figueroa’s victory over Nery moved him into a title unification clash with Fulton. They’ll fight for Figueroa’s WBC super bantamweight championship and Fulton’s WBO junior featherweight title Saturday night at Park MGM’s Dolby Live.
“I will be Brandon’s true test, honestly,” Fulton said. “Not Nery, but me. I’m a bigger fighter than Nery. Just as well as Brandon has to make weight, I have to make weight, too. Like I’m a big 22-pounder. He just has the height on me. I’ve got the weight as well.”
The 5-feet-7½ Fulton is shorter than the 5-9 Figueroa, but he is a better boxer than Nery. He completely out-classed former WBO champ Angelo Leo (21-1, 9 KOs) in his most recent action – a 12-round, unanimous-decision victory January 23 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Defeating Figueroa would move Fulton into position to face Murodjon Akhmadaliev in what would be a full championship unification fight at some point in 2022. Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KOs) owns the IBF and WBA “super” 122-pound crowns.
“It does a lot for my career,” Fulton said. “It pushes me to that next level, that, ‘Could he be a superstar? Is Fulton ready?’ These are the questions that are gonna be asked. ‘What can he do at 126?’ But at the end of the day, I want them other two belts at 122. It’ll open up them doors for that as well. Everybody wants to be in a big unification bout like that.”
The 27-year-old Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) is listed by most sportsbooks as a 3-1 favorite to defeat Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas. Their fight will headline a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader set to start at 10 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
Just before Fulton and Figueroa fight, 122-pound contender Ra’eese Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs), of Muskegon, Michigan, is set to meet Mexico’s Eduardo Baez (20-1-2, 7 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature. The telecast will begin with a 10-round bout in which bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell (18-0, 12 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will square off against Alexandro Santiago (24-2-5, 13 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.