As much as Tramaine Williams wants this title shot, the unbeaten junior featherweight contender cannot help but feel bad for Stephon Fulton.
Williams knows exactly what it’s like to wait impatiently for that championship chance. While appreciative that he’ll get that opportunity instead, Williams realizes testing positive for COVID-19 and losing that title shot must be crushing for Fulton.
“It was bittersweet because Stephen Fulton prepared eight weeks to fight for a world title,” Williams said during Showtime’s virtual press conference Thursday. “He’s been dreaming of that his whole life. He didn’t get the opportunity, so my heart goes out to him. And it was sweet on my end because I get to fight for a world title, something I always wanted to do my whole life.”
The 27-year-old Williams (19-0, 6 KOs, 1 NC) replaced Fulton as Angelo Leo’s opponent Wednesday night. Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) tested positive for COVID-19 earlier Wednesday.
Showtime will televise Leo-Williams as the main event of a tripleheader Saturday night from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). Williams was supposed to face Ra’eese Aleem (16-0, 10 KOs), who now will meet Marcus Bates (11-1-1, 8 KOs) in the co-feature, a 12-round, 122-pound rematch.
“Opportunities come far and few between, and when they come knocking you’ve gotta open the door,” Williams said. “You’ve gotta be ready for ‘em, be ready to take the risk, jump in face-first.”
The 26-year-old Leo (19-0, 9 KOs), of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is ranked second by the WBO in the 122-pound division. Williams is ranked sixth by the WBO.
“I know he’s trying to win a world title,” Williams said. “He’s a talented fighter, 19-0, beat a couple decent fighters. So, it’s not gonna be a cakewalk. I’m ready for him.”
The skillful southpaw from New Haven, Connecticut, considers Leo, who is promoted by Floyd Mayweather, more of a threat than Las Vegas’ Aleem.
“He’s a sharp fighter,” Williams said. “He’s gonna be in shape. He’s gonna be ready to come in to fight, throws decent body shots. We’re just gonna take that away.”
Williams isn’t the least bit uneasy now that he has been thrust into a title fight so suddenly.
“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life, so it’s regular for me,” Williams said. “I’ve been here since I was 9, 10 years old. So, the last 24 hours is actually what I’ve been preparing for my whole life, or two-thirds of my life.”
Assuming Fulton is healthy, he is expected to fight the Leo-Williams winner next. Pending the WBO’s approval, that bout should happen sometime within 180 days of the Leo-Williams fight Saturday night.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.