Stephen Fulton felt like “sh-t."
What was supposed to be one of the most exciting times of his life quickly devolved into one of his worst weeks late in July. The undefeated junior featherweight contender tested positive for COVID-19 just three days before he was supposed to battle Angelo Leo for the then-vacant WBO 122-pound championship.
Philadelphia’s Fulton was removed not only from the biggest fight of his career, but from his hotel room at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. A reflective Fulton realizes that immediately ushering him from the Premier Boxing Champions/Showtime “bubble” was done to protect the other fighters and employees who were in quarantine.
“Listen, when they kicked us out the hotel, I felt like sh-t,” a laughing Fulton said Wednesday during a virtual press conference for his rescheduled fight with Leo, set for January 23. “I’m like, ‘Damn! Look how they treatin’ me!’ But I knew it wasn’t nothing personal. Nobody wants to get sick. And by having it, now I understand why so many people have lost their lives and that type of thing. So, I would like to say much love to everybody that had it and a healthy recovery for everyone.”
It took Fulton roughly two weeks to recover physically from COVID-19, but he didn’t return to the gym until early in October.
“I gave myself some time because I know that working out and running while you have it can permanently mess your lungs up,” Fulton said. “It’ll mess your breathing up. So, I took some time off of it. And I needed that time to mentally get myself back together.”
Contracting COVID-19 indeed required some emotional and mental rehabilitation.
Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) was contractually guaranteed a shot at Leo (20-0, 9 KOs) once Albuquerque’s Leo defeated Fulton’s replacement, Tramaine Williams (19-1, 6 KOs, 1 NC), by unanimous decision August 1 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Still, falling from the cusp of fighting for a world title to being bedridden during a pandemic took its toll on the 26-year-old Fulton.
“It was like one of my lowest moments, losing that opportunity,” Fulton said. “And I actually cried about it. I felt like that was gonna be it, and I wasn’t gonna get the opportunity again until later on down the line. And luckily, the great team that is all joining us today, you know, put together this January 23rd [fight]. So, just going through that changed my mindset, the thought process that I’ve been having, the way I’ve been training, the way I’ve been fighting. And it just made me feel like I could lose everything. Everyone knows how they feel when they feel like they lost something, or lost everything that they had, and that opportunity. And they know that rage and that anxiety and everything that it gives you.”
The Leo-Fulton fight will headline a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader January 23 from Mohegan Sun Arena.
In the co-feature, Raesse Aleem (17-0, 10 KOs), of Muskegon, Michigan, and Vic Pasillas (16-0, 9 KOs), of Redwood City, California, will meet in a 12-round fight for the WBA interim 122-pound title. 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.