Stephen Fulton ends a long nightmare with a title
Stephen Fulton punched the backseat. He punched it again, then yanked his shirt over his head and wailed during a car drive back to Philadelphia late last July. The Philly junior featherweight thought his career was over; thought he would never get another title shot after testing positive for COVID-19, blowing a chance on national TV against Angelo Leo for the vacant WBO 122-pound title.
Apparently, a little depression can go a long way.
Fulton certainly used that sullen episode to motivate himself and get what he felt rightfully belonged to him six months later, dominating Leo to win the WBO junior featherweight title on Saturday on the first Showtime Championship Boxing telecast of 2021 from the Mohegan Sun Arena, in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Fulton (19-0, 8 knockouts) won on superior boxing ability, though he mostly won on beating Leo (19-1, 9 KOs) at his own game, using an inside attack.
Judges Frank Lombardi and Waleska Roldan each had it 119-109 for Fulton, while Steve Weisfeld also had it big for the Philly fighter, 118-110.
Punch stats bore out Fulton’s dominance. He landed 44/270 (16%) jabs, 320/913 (35%) power shots and 364/1,183 (31%) total punches, to Leo’s 24/122 (20%) jabs, 238/688 (35%) power shots and 262/810 (32%) total punches.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Fulton said. “When it hits me, I’m going to act the fool. Dancing, going crazy. This is a dream come true right now. I’m a world champion. Not everyone can be a world champion.
“This was the first fight I wasn’t really nervous. I knew I was in shape. I barely got tired. The ring rust was there somewhat but I kinda feel like I broke out of that. Just going through everything I went through, COVID and all, getting through that helped me.”
An interesting point came in the second half of the fight, when Fulton’s work rate increased. He landed 40-30-12-26-34-22 power punches over the last six rounds, totaling 164 of his 320 total power shots, to Leo’s 18-19-19-17-14-17 for 104 of his 238 total of power shots.
“From like the fifth round, that’s when I knew I was going to take off,” Fulton said. “I never got tired from engaging. This fight I was prepared and I knew that’s what I came to do. So, by the fifth, I knew I was taking the fight away from him.
“Early on, I noticed he was landing a lot of good right hands as I was pulling back – and that’s one of the things my trainer told me not to do in the dressing room. I made the adjustments and smothered the shots to make sure I wouldn’t get caught again.”
No one sleeps on Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem’s power
Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem dropped rugged Victor Pasillas four times to win by 11th-round stoppage at the 1:00 mark for the interim WBA junior featherweight title.
Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs) sets up a possible future chance against Fulton. Aleem knocked Pasillas (16-1, 9 KOs) down in the second, sixth, ninth and 11th rounds.
“I feel great,” Aleem said. “We had a good camp. I was dominant. I wanted to put an exclamation point with this performance. It feels absolutely amazing. It just confirms what I knew in my head, that I have elite power. He’s one of the top fighters in the division so to knock him out, it means I’m a true threat.
“I think a lot of people were sleeping on me and my power. I wasn’t surprised that I stopped him. I didn’t think he’d be able to go the distance with me. I think a lot of the fighters in this division should really be on notice.
“I wanted to knock him out. But I wasn’t necessarily trying to go for the knockout early. I was just seeing the openings and everything came together. It doesn’t matter who I fight next. I’m ready to fight any world champion.”
Pasillas was lucky to get out of the second. He was dropped by a counter straight right with 1:12 left in the round. Aleem, a natural lefthander, dropped Pasillas a second time with a left hook with 2:00 left in the sixth. With 2:32 left in the ninth, Aleem felled Pasillas for the third time, as Pasillas was coming on. In the 11th, Aleem stunned Pasillas with a right, then used a left to drop Pasillas a fourth time. Referee Danny Schiavone stepped in to wave it over at 1:00 of the round.
Rolando “Rolly” Romero continues his roll
In a scheduled 12-round lightweight bout, Rolando Romero (13-0, 11 KOs) stopped late substitute Avery Sparrow (10-4, 3 KOs) for the first time in his career, ending it at :43 of the seventh round.
Romero was originally scheduled to defend his interim WBA lightweight title against Justin Pauldo, who exceeded the 135-pound limit by 3.8 pounds. Sparrow replaced Pauldo, and he had been training for a month.
Sparrow tried to muck it up and make it ugly. He failed.
Just 40 seconds into the fight, Romero dropped Sparrow for the third time in his career with a left hook.
In the sixth, Romero clipped Sparrow with a right uppercut that sent Sparrow awkwardly to the canvas, clutching his right knee. Referee Johnny Callas did not rule it a knockdown. Sparrow got up limping, and tried to save himself with a few low blows, which forced Callas to take two points away from Sparrow.
By then, Sparrow’s corner saw enough and ended it at :43 of the seventh.
“I was very disappointed, I really wanted to fight Justin Pauldo,” Romero said. “But things happen – at least I had another opponent.
“I fought a dirty fighter. He hit me with a dozen, if not more, low blows, back of the head, trying to wrestle but it is what it is. I got the victory. I dropped him with that hook in the opening round. I thought it would be over but he’s slick – he knows how to survive.
“With Sparrow, he fought like a coward. He just wanted a street-fight because he knows he wasn’t going to do anything to me. It came to low blows, hitting behind the head. His corner did the right thing by stopping it. In that last moment before they stopped the fight, he was hurt again and there was a lot of time left in the round. He’s lucky they stopped it.
“You guys said you want to see me box and you saw me box. At the end, his corner quit and he fought like a coward. I boxed good.”
Sharone Carter (12-3, 3 KOs) won an 8-round junior featherweight unanimous decision over McJoe Arroyo (18-4, 8 KOs) to start the show.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.