Fight Picks: Stephen Fulton vs. Brandon Figueroa
On Saturday, WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Stephen Fulton will face WBC counterpart Brandon Figueroa in an eagerly anticipated unification matchup at the Park Theater in Las Vegas.
The two will collide on Showtime, beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/ 6:00 p.m. PT.
Fulton, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 122 pounds, was a good amateur who worked his way up and was ready when w big opportunity came against former WBO bantamweight titleholder Paulus Ambunda (UD 12). Since then, the 27-year-old from Philadelphia has scored wins over previously unbeaten Mexican Isaac Avelar (KO 6) and used his skills to tame another unbeaten opponent in Arnold Khegai (UD 12). Most recently he beat Angelo Leo (UD 12) to claim the WBO title in January.
Figueroa, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring, has a fan-friendly style and came of age by stopping world-rated Oscar Escandon (TKO 10) in 2018. “The Heartbreaker” continued to improve and has scored stoppage wins over Moises Flores (KO 3), Yonfrez Perez (TKO 8), Javier Chacon (KO 4) and Damien Vazquez (TKO 10). The 24-year-old Texan is coming off a career-best win against previously unbeaten Mexican Luis Nery (KO 7) to become WBC titlist in May.
This looks like an intriguing clash of styles, the raw aggression of Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 knockouts) versus classic boxing skills of Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs). Can Figueroa drag Fulton into a war or will Fulton be able to keep the action on the outside? A slower pace definitely suits Fulton, while Figueroa figures to want a firefight.
Online gambling group William Hill lists Fulton as an 2/7 (-350) favorite, while Figueroa is priced at 5/2 (+250); the draw is 16/1 (+1600).
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM
TOM GRAY: FULTON UD
“Figueroa is an excellent offensive force and his strength, aggression and heart cannot be underestimated. However, Fulton has all the attributes to make this a boxing match and if it’s a boxing match then he wins. I foresee a comfortable decision in the 117-111 range.”
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: FULTON UD
“I’ve watched Fulton from a far having been at his pro debut and written a New Faces feature on him and I think he’s a well-rounded fighter coming into his own. Conversely, I’d never been hugely impressed by Figueroa until his most recently fight when he was terrific in beating Nery which, to me, is the best win on either man’s ledgers. He’ll bring the fire, but I think Fulton’s movement will take the sting out of the battle and slowly but surely he’ll pick away and win a competitive but unanimous decision.”
LEE GROVES: FULTON PTS
“Figueroa showed himself to be a formidable force in stopping Luis Nery last time out, and in beating Angelo Leo, Fulton not only showed versatility but almost inhuman durability in absorbing Leo’s wicked body shots. Based on the Leo fight, I think that Fulton has the skills and toughness to take what the man I call “The Weslaco Whirlwind” can dish out while also finding enough holes in the Texan’s defense to win a hard-fought decision.”
MICHAEL WOODS: FULTON UD
“Fulton is a guy who would be that much more ahead of the pack if it weren’t for the brutally rude interruption of normalcy brought on by the global pandemic. Fulton’s skill set suggests he will keep ascending and that he wins a unanimous decision. His ability to keep his head and be effective in the trench means “The Heartbreaker” will take his first L.”
MARTY MULCAHEY: FULTON UD
“A fantastic matchup of two champions in their physical primes… what a concept! Because of this it is a very tough fight to pick, and a wise bettor may find the draw odds to his liking? When I find myself having to choose between boxing equals, I will always lean toward the boxer with the faster hands (rather than power or size and reach advantages, all of which Figueroa holds). That is Fulton in my opinion. I also see this fight going the distance giving Fulton the time to squeak out a unanimous decision by the slightest of margins by winning the championship rounds.”
MICHAEL MONTERO: FULTON UD
“Although Figueroa is a little taller and longer and the harder puncher, Fulton is more skilled and has the tighter guard. Furthermore, the Texas native is recovering from COVID and it remains to be seen how that may affect his performance. After some close early rounds, the kid from Philly will pick off Figueroa’s punches and land sharp counters. Give me “Cool Boy Steph” by unanimous decision, 117-111.”
NORM FRAUENHEIM: FIGUEROA TKO 10
“Figueroa is on a roll – don’t expect it to end against Stephen Fulton. Figueroa has scored nine stoppages in his last 10 bouts. He stumbled two years ago in a split draw with Julio Ceja, but he immediately regained his momentum, scoring successive stoppages: first Damien Vazquez and then Luis Nery in a punishing exhibition of aggressiveness in May. Figueroa calls himself “The Heartbreaker.” He does more than break hearts. He breaks down opponents with relentless body blows, which figure to exhaust and then beat Fulton into a late-round stoppage.”
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): FULTON UD
“I like the look of this one because both like to fight on the inside. Fulton is a little shorter in height and reach so will have to work harder to get inside and that’s exactly where he needs to be. Figueroa also likes it up close but his longer arms may not be as quick at putting combinations together. Both are fair punchers. I would expect the slightly more physically mature Fulton to edge it on the inside. I think there’s a lot more to come from both boxers, neither has peaked yet and they will surely bring out the best in one another. I pick Fulton, he’s the best all-rounder, via unanimous decision.”
TONY TOLJ (MANAGER): FIGUEROA UD
“I think it’s going to be the fight of the weekend for sure. Fulton is a very talented and classy fighter but my gut – and it’s a big gut at that (laughs) – tells me Figueroa. Figueroa is tough as nails and I believe he will grind his way to victory in an 8-4, 7-5 kind of fight. Figueroa by 12-round unanimous decision.”
JASON MOLONEY (BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDER): FIGUEROA UD
“I find this one a tough fight to pick. Two very different and contrasting styles. Both guys are very solid fighters, but I was really impressed by Figueroa and the way he was able to take out Nery in his last fight. I think that his toughness along with his awkward style and high output will cause Fulton problems and for that reason I’m tipping Figueroa in a good, close fight by 12-round unanimous decision.”
ANDREW MOLONEY (JUNIOR BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDER): FULTON UD
“This should be a really good fight. I’m expecting Figueroa to bring a lot of pressure and make an exciting fight, but I believe that Fulton will be too sharp and too skillful. I see Fulton winning a unanimous decision or possibly scoring a late stoppage.”
RAUL MARQUEZ (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/COMMENTATOR): FULTON PTS
“Fulton has the better skills and has shown that he can box and go toe-to-toe. Figueroa is non-stop action; the real-life energizer bunny. As long as Fulton doesn’t run out of gas. He should be able to win by decision.”
JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): FULTON UD
“I went back and forth with who to pick but I’m going to have to go with Fulton who I think is the better boxer. I always lean towards the boxer in matches like this. If Fulton’s head is right and camp was good, he should pull it off but it could become a draw in Las Vegas.”
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY): FULTON UD
“Figueroa is straight forward and will come at you and is not worried if he gets hit as long as he can land his. His condition is a major plus – as you know he can go the 12 hard rounds. Fulton is more versatile and will look to box and counter. It will be entertaining and a must-watch to see who can impose their style over the other. In the end, as the saying goes, styles make fights. I have to go with Fulton by unanimous decision in this one.”
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (TRAINER): FIGUEROA TKO
“The fight between Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa will probably end with both guys trading big shots. Fulton is a littler slicker but carries his hands low leaving himself open for head shots. Figueroa is non-stop and switches his stance around a lot. He may arguably hit a little harder than Fulton and could end up dropping him to win a late stoppage, but if it goes the distance then Fulton may shade a close encounter. It’s a tricky one, I’ll go with Figueroa.”
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): FULTON PTS
“I think Fulton has a very, very slight edge in his skills to pull out a close decision against the power of Figueroa. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fight ends in a draw either.”
FERNANDO BELTRAN (PROMOTER, ZANFER PROMOTIONS): FIGUEROA KO
“I believe Figueroa has a big and strong hook to the body. That’s why I think he will KO Fulton in the later rounds.
OSWALDO KULCHE (PROMOTER, PROMOCIONES DEL PUEBLO): FULTON PTS
“Fulton’s speed will make him my favorite. He is more complete. I think Figueroa lacks defense and doesn’t have the power to take Fulton out.”
ALEX STEEDMAN (COMMENTATOR): FULTON PTS
“If Fulton fights like he did against Leo and Figueroa, does his usual thing, then this will be a terrific fight. Technically Fulton is better and faster, but Figueroa is relentless and I was surprised to see him such an underdog. I’ve always thought Figueroa loses as soon as he meets a quality fighter or one with a real dig, but I’m not sure Fulton fits the mold. If I was betting, I’d play Figueroa at the prices or by late-KO, but my pick is Fulton by decision.”
JOHN SCULLY (TRAINER): FIGUEROA PTS
“One of the best fights to be made today. I like Figueroa to come through with a hard-fought but solid decision win.”
Final Tally: Fulton 14-6