Stephen Fulton aims at October for Brandon Figueroa
Stephen Fulton may remember 9:36 AM on Tuesday, Sept. 7 for a while. The WBO junior featherweight titlist from Philadelphia knows the exact time, because that’s when Wahid Rahim, Fulton’s manager and trainer, woke him up Tuesday morning to tell him Brandon Figueroa tested positive for COVID-19 and their highly anticipated unification fight for September 18 in Las Vegas was off.
Fulton (19-0, 8 knockouts) is ranked No. 3 by The Ring at 122, while Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) holds the WBC belt and is ranked No. 4 by Ring.
“When Wahid walked into my room that early (Tuesday morning), the reason I looked at my phone was because it had to be something important,” Fulton recalled to The Ring exclusively. “The first thing out of Wahid’s mouth was ‘Brandon has COVID,’ because someone called Wahid to let him know. I looked right at my phone and saw 9:36 and the first thing out of my mouth was ‘You serious!’
“Well, that might have been the second thing out of my mouth (laughs).”
Team Fulton arrived in Las Vegas from Philadelphia on Wednesday, September 1 for the Figueroa fight at the Park MGM in Las Vegas. Fulton returned to his hometown on Wednesday morning for what he says will be either an October 23 or October 30 date to fight Figueroa, 24, at a venue and city to be determined.
The whole PBC on Showtime show has been cancelled.
Fulton, who has two sons including a baby boy, admitted he wasn’t angry at Figueroa, because he himself tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020, postponing his fight against Angelo Leo for the vacant WBO 122-pound title. Instead, Leo won the WBO belt by stopping Tramaine Williams in 11 on Aug. 1, 2020.
Fulton, 27, then beat Leo in January for the WBO belt. Fulton clarified that he is steamed over waiting again toward his dream of becoming the undisputed junior featherweight champion.
“This is different because when I came down with COVID, the fight still took place and I had to watch someone take the belt that was supposed to be mine,” he said. “Figueroa doesn’t have to watch anyone fight like I did. I still have to wait for him. I’ve been in training camp since June.
“Unfortunately, I have to wait until October for this fight. I’m not angry at Brandon personally because of one condition, he has COVID, and it’s a life-changing situation and a hell that I went through. Brandon could have been hospitalized. That’s Brandon’s life right there, and that comes above everything else. I had that s—t before. I know how it feels to have it. I know how low I felt when I had it. It’s why I’m not mad at Brandon personally.
“But I am more motivated. I have a lot of hostility in me, I have a lot of anger in me, more so because I’ve been sacrificing a lot. I have my sons that I can’t see, including by new son. Boxing is a lonely sport. You put your body through a lot, and it’s hard to maintain these things.
“I’ve been 130 since August 14 until I heard Brandon had COVID. I need to get my body back bigger, so I can get my natural strength back. So, for me to hold 130 for another month, I can’t do that.”
Fulton said he will take a week off and give his body some rest. He plans on staying in the gym and trying to maintain, before he begins training again. He says he’ll carry around 135 pounds before he starts cutting weight.
“I want to see Brandon come back 100 percent, I want to face the best Brandon Figueroa there is,” Fulton said. “I don’t want any excuses when I beat him. That’s a big deal to me. I came back stronger and better after I had COVID. I hope Brandon does the same. We’re looking at a seven-week span so Brandon can come back and get healthy. This fight needs to be in October, because I don’t need this stretched out any more to November. I can’t put my body through this again.
“I want two fights this year. I’ve been in training camp for four months. I feel in the best shape of my life. I feel in better shape than I did when I fought Leo. After I beat Brandon, I want one more fight at 122, MJ (The Ring’s No. 1-rated Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the IBF/WBA titlist), then I’ll go up after Leo Santa Cruz at 126.
“I have to wait a little longer for what I want. Someone is going to pay for that.”
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.
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