WBO Junior Featherweight World Champion Angelo Leo and unbeaten rising star Stephen “Cool Boy” Fulton Jr. previewed their long-awaited championship showdown during a virtual press conference Wednesday as they prepare to battle live on SHOWTIME Saturday, January 23 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
The first SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast of 2021begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features a co-main event pitting two more undefeated 122-pound boxers against each other as Ra’eese Aleem and Victor Pasillas face off in a 12-round bout for the interim WBA title. In the telecast opener, rising prospect Rolando Romero squares off against Justin Pauldo in a 12-round lightweight bout for Romero’s interim WBA title. The combined ring record of the six fighters on the card is a remarkable 96 wins with just one loss.
Leo and Fulton were originally scheduled to meet on SHOWTIME for the vacant title in August, before Fulton received a positive COVID-19 test. Leo went on to defeat Tramaine Williams by unanimous decision to capture the title and will now make his first defense against the unbeaten Fulton.
Here is what Fulton had to say Wednesday:
“January 23 is 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.
“I don’t think the layoff will affect me at all. I think it makes me even more ready. I can’t wait to get in the ring and get back to doing what I love.
“My game plan remains the same as if I was fighting him in August. 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.
“Going through the experience of having the fight against Leo cancelled just changed my mindset. I felt like I lost everything. It made me train even harder. I took that rage and anxiety and used it every day in training. I’m just ready to fight.
“To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia. This is what I’ve been working for my whole career. 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.
“My streak of taking fighters’ ‘0’ is going to continue on January 23. 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.
“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.
“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.”
In the long-awaited battle between undefeated rising junior featherweight stars, WBO 122-pound World Champion Angelo Leo meets Stephen “Cool Boy” Fulton Jr., in the main event of the first SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast of 2021 Saturday, January 23 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT live on SHOWTIME from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
The co-main event pits two more undefeated 122-pound boxers against each other as Ra’eese Aleem and Victor Pasillas face off in a 12-round bout for the interim WBA title. The telecast opener features rising prospect Rolando Romero against Justin Pauldo in a 12-round lightweight bout for Romero’s interim WBA title. The combined ring record of the six fighters on the card is a remarkable 96 wins with just one loss.
“The super bantamweight division will have a clear world title contender emerge from the co-main event, a battle of unbeatens between Aleem and Pasillas. Add in the opening bout of ‘Rolly’ Romero vs. Justin Pauldo, a fight that can launch a prospect into a contender, and we have an excellent fight card to kick off the year.”
Leo (20-0, 9 KOs), who fights out of the Mayweather Promotions stable, became the first world champion from his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., since legendary three-division champion Johnny Tapia when he defeated Tramaine Williams by unanimous decision in August. The 26-year-old was originally scheduled to face Fulton for the vacant WBO junior featherweight world title that evening in the first SHOWTIME boxing event following the pandemic shutdown of the sport, but Fulton was forced to withdraw following a positive COVID-19 test.
“It’s been a crazy year for everyone but to say I walked out of 2020 a world champion is truly incredible and humbling,” said Leo. “I spent 16 years training for that moment to become a champion, and here I am, preparing for my next camp for my first defense top of 2021. That’s a blessing, and I thank Mayweather Promotions and my teamf or that. My experiences with Floyd last camp going to really put me in a great position going into this fight.
“My father Miguel has been instrumental in keeping me grounded and reminding me that all of these fighters are eyeing my spot. My goal in 2021 is to remain champion and get more belts and Fulton is that next test.”
Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Pa. Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) has faced impressive competition in his young career while rising up the 122-pound ranks, where he is currently rated No. 1 by the WBO. In his last 12 professional fights, the 26-year-old has beaten seven unbeaten fighters, including Josh Greer, Adam Lopez and Luis Saul Rosario. Fulton’s two most recent wins are a knockout over Isaac Avelar in August 2019 before most recently scoring a dominant 12-round unanimous decision victory over Arnold Khegai in January.
“Training is going great,” said Fulton. “I feel like everything happens for a reason because I’m 10 times more ready now than I was the first time around. I’m excited to fight for the title and I expect nothing but Angelo Leo to be himself and fight his fight on January 23.”
Ranked in the top-10 by the WBA and IBF at 122 pounds, Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) can take a big step closer to a world title shot when he faces fellow unbeaten Pasillas for the interim WBA strap on January 23. Raised in Michigan and training out of Las Vegas, Nev., Aleem, 30, has stopped his past six opponents inside the distance as he continues to step up his competition.
“This is a high-stakes fight and the winner will get a guaranteed world title fight,” said Aleem. “It’s going to be a good fight, but I am at the top of the heap. I knew I belonged at the top a long time ago and after my last fight that was proven. Winning this fight makes me the number-one contender, and the only thing left after this is to win the world title.”
Pasillas (15-0, 8 KOs), who hails from East Los Angeles, is fresh off a dominating sixth-round knockout over then-unbeaten Ranfis Javier Encarnacion in September 2020 which launched him into the WBA’s top-10 rankings. Like Aleem, the 28-year-old Pasillas also carries significant power. He has stopped his four most recent foes including a first-round knockout of Ernesto Guerrero.
“I’ve envisioned being in this position since I first stepped into a boxing gym at age eight and now it’s time to seize the moment,” said Pasillas. “I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity and show the world, and everyone watching on SHOWTIME, that I belong on the big stage with the elite fighters at super bantamweight. Aleem is a good fighter, but he won’t be able to hang with me. I’m going to punish him until I knock him out. East L.A. in the house, let’s go!”
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nev., Romero (12-0, 10 KOs) returns to SHOWTIME following his controversial unanimous decision victory over Jackson Marinez in August. The 25-year-old captured the interim WBA lightweight title with that win and went the distance for just the second time in his professional career. Fighting under the Mayweather Promotions banner, Romero has been matched tough early in his career with just two losses among his four most recent opponents including the once-defeated Pauldo.
“I’m going to approach this fight like I do any other fight, I don’t feel the need to sell myself,” said Romero. “I’m thankful for my fans who have been with me since day one. I fight for them, because a fan of Rolly is to be an underdog, to be doubted, and that’s all I have ever been. Whether you’re with me on January 23 or against me, I know you will be watching.”
Following an impressive unanimous decision victory over a tough Josec Ruiz in August 2020, Pauldo (14-1, 7 KOs) returns against the stiffest test of his career when he faces blue-chip prospect Romero. Hailing from Orlando, Fla. and training in Houston, Texas, Pauldo, 26, owns a four-inch reach advantage over Romero, who is the third unbeaten foe of his career.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity and I’m excited for all of my years of hard work to pay off on January 23,” said Pauldo. “I was already training and in shape when I got the call for this fight, so I’m going to be 100% on fight night. Romero is a one-gear type of fighter who comes straight forward. I believe that I have the better skills and am the better all-around fighter. This is definitely going to be an interesting fight with contrasting styles, and I can’t wait to show off my skills and bring this title home.”
Angelo Leo is the new WBO Jr. Featherweight World Champion. The 26-year-old Mayweather Promotions fighter dominated Tramaine Williams en route to a unanimous decision live on SHOWTIME Saturday night from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. in the network’s first live boxing event since March 13. Leo won by scores of 117-111 and 118-110 twice.
Leo (20-0, 9 KOs), who was originally scheduled to face Stephen Fulton, Jr. in the main event of Saturday’s card presented by Premier Boxing Champions before Fulton tested positive for COVID-19, used a dominant body attack and consistent pressure to overwhelm Williams (19-1, 6 KOs), who stepped up from the co-main event to face Leo. Albuquerque’s Leo had a 248-196 edge in punches landed while landing 39 percent of his power punches. 102 of his 248 connects were body punches.
Leo, who was ranked WBO’s No. 2 junior featherweight going into the fight, is now expected to defend his title against Fulton, ranked No. 1 by the WBO, within the next 180 days.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it just feels surreal,” said Leo. “The first few rounds I was just feeling him out, getting his timing, getting the feel of him. I felt him kind of loosening up and breaking down, and that’s when I started putting the pressure on him a little more.
“That was the key factor in this fight, the body work and the pressure. I’m pretty sure Albuquerque is celebrating tonight. I think they have four world champions, because you can’t exclude Holly Holm. You have Johnny [Tapia], Danny [Romero], Holly and now me. There’s four champions in that city and I think I’ve made history there.”
Fulton, who watched the fight on television while quarantining following his positive test, was interviewed following the fight by SHOWTIME host Brian Custer.
“Congratulations to Leo, he did it,” said the Philadelphia native. “But listen, I’m ready for him. I’ve been ready. Just be ready to face me when it’s time. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
In the co-featured bout, a WBA Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator, 122-pound contender Ra’eese Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) kept his undefeated record intact via TKO over late replacement Marcus Bates (11-2-1, 8 KOs). Aleem was originally scheduled to face Williams before Fulton’s positive test. This was a rematch of a 2018 bout in which Aleem won by unanimous decision.
The 26-year-old Bates suffered an injured right wrist and battled through the pain for several rounds. Prior to the start of the 10th round, Bates’ corner and referee Gary Rosato warned the fighter that the bout was in danger of being stopped. At 2:18 of round 10, Bates grimaced in pain and turned his back on the action, causing the fight to be stopped. Aleem dominated from the opening bell, out-landing Bates 193-86 in total punches, including 71 landed body shots.
With the win, Aleem sets himself up for an opportunity for a 122-pound title fight.
“I would love to fight either the winner of the main event or any current world champion – Akhmadaliev has two of the belts,” said the Las Vegas-based Aleem who was born and raised in Muskegon, Mich. “Brandon Figueroa, Rey Vargas, or the winner of this one. It doesn’t really matter who but I want the strap.
“I didn’t know his hand was hurt, I thought he was just shaking it just to try to get me to look at it and distract me. I didn’t worry about it.”
In the opening bout of the telecast, undefeated light heavyweight Joe George (11-0, 7 KOs) scored a stunning ninth-round stoppage of Marco Escudero (10-2, 9 KOs) in a rematch of their November ShoBox showdown that saw George win a heavily-debated split decision. Watch KO HERE: https://twitter.com/ShowtimeBoxing/status/1289744838745882624.
This time, George left no room for a controversial decision. At 3:00 of round number nine, George caught Escudero with a vicious left uppercut that sent Escudero flat on his back in a candidate for KO of the Year. At the time of the stoppage, George was behind on two of the judges’ scorecards, 79-73 and 77-75, and ahead on one judge’s card, 79-73. Prior to the one-punch KO, George was getting out-landed 127-89 by Escudero, and Escudero held a 2-1 edge in punches thrown.
“I was setting him up with the jab to the body, I had him leaning over a little,” said Houston’s George, who turned 31 on Friday. “I was shooting the right uppercut, some landed and some didn’t. I wanted him to get comfortable and relaxed, and that’s exactly what he did. He was relaxed and I slipped over and just shot it. He gave it to me and I had to take it. It put him down.
“The result is self-explanatory. I don’t have to say nothing. I’m willing to fight whoever next. One fight at a time and I’ll be prepared for whatever’s on the way.”
Saturday’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast, the first of a nine-event television lineup taking place over the next five months, will replay on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME EXTREME.
Photo: Amanda Wescott/Showtime
Undefeated contender Tramaine Williams will step in to face fellow unbeaten Angelo Leo for the vacant WBO Jr. Featherweight World Championship in the main event of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING this Saturday, August 1, (live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions from Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Williams replaces Stephen Fulton Jr., who tested positive for COVID-19 on the test provided by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation and was removed from the 122-pound title bout versus Leo.
Undefeated Ra’eese Aleem will now face 122-pound contender Marcus Bates in the co-main event in a 12-round WBA Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator. Aleem had previously been scheduled to fight Williams, before Williams moved into the main event to fight Leo.
The 26-year-old Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) fights out of the Mayweather Promotions stable and will look to become the first world champion from his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico since Johnny Tapia. He will now seek the title against another unbeaten opponent in the 27-year-old Williams (19-0, 6 KOs). Williams represents his native New Haven, Connecticut and shot up the WBO rankings by defeating Yenifel Vicente in July 2019.
The 30-year-old Aleem (16-0, 10 KOs), who hails from Muskegon, Michigan, has continued his winning ways since beating Bates in 2018, adding five victories to his ledger. The 26-year-old Bates (11-1, 8 KOs) is currently ranked No. 7 by the WBA and hails from Washington, D.C. He will look to avenge his lone loss in this rematch against Aleem.
“Extensive protocols have been put in place to catch this very possibility and they’ve proven so far to be effective,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “We are supporting Stephen and his team as they self-quarantine off property and we will help with any medical assistance if needed.
“Fortunately, Williams was ready to move into the spot in the main event, which remains a battle of unbeaten young super bantamweights. In addition, Marcus Bates was in excellent shape and answered the call to face Aleem in a title eliminator. He is an aggressive super bantamweight who will make the most of this opportunity. I expect him to be on everyone’s radar after Saturday night.”
Fulton and his team never entered the closed system set up at Mohegan Sun for this week’s event. Upon arrival to the property, they and all fighters were tested and quarantined until their individual test results came back. There are no other positive tests to report at this time.
Before arrival to Mohegan Sun, Team Fulton and all of this Saturday’s fight teams had been tested multiple times over a period of weeks leading up to the event. Team Fulton was tested six times prior to arrival, from June 25 through the most recent test he took on July 23 before traveling to Connecticut. All of those tests came back negative. Today’s result was the first positive test for Team Fulton.
Saturday night’s triple-header on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING also features rising light heavyweight prospects Joseph George (10-0, 6 KOs) and Marcos Escudero (10-1, 9 KOs) opening the telecast with a 10-round rematch of their November ShoBox showdown that saw George win a narrow-split decision