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Stephen Fulton Jr leading new charge for Philadelphia boxing in world title shot against Angelo Leo

The unbeaten challenger gets an overdue title crack in 10 days.

Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Stephen Fulton Jr is ready to take his first crack at a world title on Jan. 23, when he faces WBO junior featherweight titlist Angelo Leo in a Showtime main event from Uncasville, Conn.

Fulton, 26, was meant to face Leo (20-0, 9 KO) for the vacant WBO belt last August, but a positive COVID test pushed Fulton out and Tramaine Williams into the bout, which Leo won by wide decision over 12 rounds, claiming the strap.

Now, the Philly fighter has his chance to take it from Leo, and after not fighting since Jan. 2020, Fulton is ready to get back in the ring.

“It’s going to be fireworks. Leo is the champion and has that spark and fire. We’re both coming hungry and prepared to make this a great fight. This fight is actually a bit underrated because we’re smaller guys, but we’re both in the top five of this division. Leo and I both have something to prove and I’m ready to get it on.”

Fulton (18-0, 8 KO) isn’t worried about a one-year layoff giving him any ring rust issues, and says nothing he saw from Leo against Williams in August has changed his approach.

“My game plan remains the same as if I was fighting him then,” Fulton said. “We’re always ready to make adjustments, but I believe I’m much better than if I had fought in August. From losing that opportunity and now coming back, it’s made me better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

“Leo’s performance against Williams was what I expected. I knew he was going to come forward and be a dog, but I don’t think Williams expected it. He’s a good fighter, he earned his way here, and now we just have to fight.”

The 26-year-old Fulton also aims to keep a theme from his career going, as he’s taken the “0” from seven fighters in his career, notably Isaac Avelar and Arnold Khegai in his last two outings, and also a young Joshua Greer Jr back in 2015, plus Adam Lopez, who has gone on to have some quality fights, in 2017.

“My streak of taking fighters’ ‘0’ is going to continue,” he said. “Fighters have their thing that they’re known for: Gervonta Davis knocks people out, Chris Colbert shows off his flashy skills, and I take fighters’ ‘0’s. Come fight night, we’ll both be prepared and ready. I’m ready to put on a show and I believe Leo will be ready to do the same.”

And as a representative for the proud and long tradition of boxing in Philadelphia, Fulton wants to be a new top dog for the city.

“To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia. This is what I’ve been working for my whole career,” he said. “To my city, it would show people from my neighborhood that there’s a way out. But I don’t feel any pressure because of it. This sport teaches us the discipline to perform in moments like this. The pressure is just a part of my job.

“I’m one of the guys leading the new era of Philadelphia boxing, but I can’t get ahead of myself. I just have to stay smart, calm and do my job. It’s all about doing what I came there to do. I am that next wave and I’m just ready to stamp it by getting this belt. I’m going to solidify what everyone already knew about me. I have the superstar quality in me and I’ll show it in this fight.”

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