Fulton on win over Figueroa: ‘I was landing a lot of clean shots’

In a non-stop action fight between undefeated super bantamweight world champions, Stephen Fulton Jr. unified WBO and WBC titles with a majority decision victory over Brandon Figueroa live on SHOWTIME Saturday night in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

This showdown was set up earlier this year with each fighter capturing a world title by defeating an undefeated opponent, as Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) bested Angelo Leo in January to capture the WBO belt, while Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) stopped Luis Nery in May to earn his WBC title. The two champions put on a memorable display, combining to throw over 1,700 punches across 12 rounds according to CompuBox.

“I was catching him in between every shot he was throwing,” said Fulton. “He was making it sloppy and rough.”

“I hurt him like five or six times,” said Figueroa. “I put the pressure on for the whole 12 rounds, landed the cleaner shots and hurt him. I thought I only lost four rounds at the most.”

It was Figueroa’s activity (1,060 punches thrown) against Fulton’s accuracy (37% connect rate) squaring off throughout a narrow fight in which neither man was able to sustain momentum for long. In rounds four through seven, the fighters were separated by just two punches landed (103 to 101 for Figueroa).

“I was landing a lot of clean shots,” said Fulton. “He was throwing wild shots that the fans were enjoying, but he was hitting my arms a lot.”

In a memorable sixth frame, each fighter landed nothing but power shots with Figueroa connecting on 36 to Fulton’s 34. In a frantic 10th round, Figueroa looked to have Fulton hurt after numerous flurries of power punches. However, Fulton was able to recover in the final two rounds to win both the 11th and 12th on two judges’ cards.

That final push helped Fulton hold on with the score of 116-112 from two judges overruling a 114-114 card. After the fight, both fighters believed they had done enough to win and were open to battling again in a rematch. 

“It was an amazing experience,” said Fulton. “The judges made their decision and we can run it back.”

“It was the robbery of the year,” said Figueroa. “The fans who watched this live know who won. I always come to fight and I did that all night.”

 

Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

In the co-main event, top super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs) remained unbeaten with a majority decision over Mexico’s Eduardo Baez (20-2-2, 7 KOs) after 10 rounds of action.

“I’m coming off a long lay-off so I was a little bit rusty,” said Aleem. “I wanted to stop him, but he kept bringing it. I did what I had to do.”

Aleem showed off his versatile attack from the outset, flashing combinations combined with consistent activity that would carry him throughout the 10 rounds. Baez proved to be a sturdy challenge, and despite loading up for big right hands throughout the fight, he was able to land and keep Aleem from overwhelming him.

Aleem switched between southpaw and orthodox stances during the action to varying success, and overall held a 232 to 111 advantage in punches landed. Of those 232, Aleem connected on 90 body shots that helped him keep Baez at bay.

“I’m a dog,” said Aleem. “I grinded it out. I turned southpaw and got caught with some shots, but I hung in there. I can hang with anyone. It doesn’t matter who steps in there against me, I’m going to win.”

Baez fought valiantly through a cut on his forehead that opened up in the middle rounds due to an accidental headbutt. Aleem appeared to have Baez hurt in the ninth round with a counter right hand from the southpaw stance, but ended up holding on through round 10 to win the decision with scores of 98-92, 96-94 and 95-95.

“He was a tough Mexican fighter, but I got the job done,” said Aleem. “I want the winner of the main event. They can run but they can’t hide.”

 

 

Figueroa-Fulton set for 11/27 in Las Vegas

Undefeated 122-pound world champions are set for a unification clash as WBC champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa and WBO champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr. will battle in the SHOWTIME main event Saturday, November 27 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

Figueroa and Fulton were originally scheduled to face each other on Saturday, September 18, before the fight was pushed back due to a positive COVID-19 test for Figueroa.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast will begin at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and also features undefeated super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem battling Mexico’s Eduardo Baez in the 10-round co-main event. Opening the telecast, unbeaten rising bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell takes on Mexico’s Alejandro Barrios in a 10-round showdown. The event is promoted by TGB Promotions.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

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Fulton on fight with Figueroa: ‘I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this fight’

With just over two weeks until his highly anticipated super bantamweight unification fight on SHOWTIME, undefeated WBO 122-pound world champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr. has relocated to Las Vegas to put the finishing touches on his summer-long training camp. Fulton Jr. will face WBC champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa in the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING main event on Saturday, September 18 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

“I am trying to get used to everything in Vegas,” said Fulton Jr. “I wanted to get away from home, be away everyone and get myself a little uncomfortable to finish up camp.”

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Pa., Fulton Jr. (19-0, 8 KOs) is the city’s only world champion following a triumphant win over then-unbeaten Angelo Leo in January on SHOWTIME. This will mark the first title defense for Fulton and Figueroa, who have been on a collision course for many years and finally meet to determine the king of the 122-pound division.

“I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this fight,” added Fulton Jr. “I don’t know why people expect me to feel more pressure entering my first defense and this huge unification fight, but I don’t let any of that get to me. I know there are people doubting me and I can’t wait for them to watch what happens on September 18.”

The 24-year-old Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) captured his world title from former two-division champion Luis Nery via devastating seventh-round knockout in May on SHOWTIME. Immediately following his win, Fulton entered the ring for a face off with the newly minted champ which set up their September unification. Figueroa is well-known for his hard-charging style while Fulton Jr. is lauded for his boxing prowess, setting the stage for an excellent clash of styles.

“I feel like this is a classic boxer-brawler matchup, but I showed in my last fight that I can brawl too,” explained the 27-year-old champ. “He can’t become a pure boxer now though, it’s too late in the game to teach him that. I am more than prepared for him to come in and try to walk me down but if he has a different game plan, I have the adjustments ready.”

The fight marks Fulton’s first fight as a professional in Las Vegas, the site of boxing’s biggest title fights in history. Figueroa will make his second appearance in Vegas where he suffered his lone pro blemish – a split draw against Julio Ceja in 2019.

“This is my first professional fight in Las Vegas,” stated Fulton Jr. “I fought in Nevada as an amateur. I fought in the Junior Golden Gloves here and won the whole tournament.”

Trained in his hometown by coach Wahid Rahim, Fulton has adopted a new approach to his training camps when preparing for his last two fights.

“I trained alone for this camp and I feel like this is how it needs to be moving forward as a championship fighter,” added Fulton. “Due to the COVID situation, I just tried to stay away from everybody.

“I was locked down like this when training for the Angelo Leo fight, too. I like it better to be in the gym by myself or with less people. I like it better because I get to focus more on myself. I have the ring to myself; I have the bags to myself. You don’t have to worry about taking turns or waiting for anything when you are the main priority. You get your job done faster, easier, and more efficiently.

“I worked harder. I sparred more, I focused more on my endurance. The world will see September 18 on SHOWTIME.”

The three-fight boxing event will open SHOWTIME’s combat sports doubleheader on September 18. Immediately following the main event from Las Vegas, BELLATOR MMA will air live from San Jose, Calif. with a three-fight event headlined by light heavyweight contenders Phil Davis and Yoel Romero.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Figueroa: ‘We’ve been waiting for this fight against (Stephen)Fulton’

Undefeated rising star Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa scored a career-best victory and captured the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship with a seventh-round knockout of unbeaten two-division champion Luis Nery Saturday night in the main event of action live on SHOWTIME from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California in a Premier Boxing Champions event.

“It feels amazing, this is a dream come true,” said Figueroa. “I know everyone doubted me, but here I am with the belt. It’s all thanks to hard work and dedication.”

The fight between undefeated champions lived up to its billing with Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) implementing his smothering strategy early, forcing a firefight with Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) from the opening bell. Nery appeared to control much of the early action, owning edges in punches landed (209 to 177) and punch accuracy (34% to 27%) throughout the fight, according to CompuBox.

But it was the 24-year-old Figueroa’s persistence in coming forward that eventually began to wear on Nery. Better fourth and sixth rounds for Figueroa showed cracks in Nery’s armor and were a harbinger for what would come soon after.

“The plan was to break him,” said Figueroa. “My corner told me to pressure him and that he wouldn’t last. That’s exactly what happened. I knew he was getting tired, he was trying to box me. I saw him breathing heavy. My team just said it was time to go get him.”

In the seventh round, Figueroa appeared to hurt Nery early with a series of powerful hooks, as Nery altered his strategy and began to clinch. Continuing to press inside, Figueroa was eventually able to land the decisive punches in the form of a combination punctuated by a left hook to the body.

“You saw tonight what I can do,” said Figueroa. “I brought it to him and the hard work paid off. We did our homework. We did a great job in the gym and just took it to him.”

Nery had a delayed reaction to the powerful body shot, but once he hit the canvas, he was unable to beat referee Thomas Taylor’s count, ending the fight 2:18 into the round. Figueroa’s triumph sets him up for a unification showdown on Saturday, September 11 on SHOWTIME against WBO 122-pound champion Stephen Fulton Jr., who joined Figueroa in the ring after the fight.

“We’ve been waiting for this fight against Fulton and it’s finally going to happen,” said Figueroa. “I knew I had to get through Luis Nery first. Everything has its time. I envisioned that I was going to beat Nery and now I see myself beating Fulton. I know he’s coming with everything he’s got and that we’re going to give the fans a hell of a show.”

“Great performance by Brandon tonight,” said Fulton. “That’s what I predicted would happen. This is my time now though. I’ve been waiting for this moment to finally fight Brandon. I knew that Brandon would fight how he always fights. I’m just ready for my time against him. We’re going to put on a hell of a performance. Congratulations to him tonight, but I’m coming next.”

In the co-main event, former super bantamweight unified world champion Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) dominated the second half of the fight to win a 10-round unanimous decision over Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs).

“This win is a step closer to getting back on top and getting a world title once again,” said Roman. “I knew he was a tough fighter who hit hard, so I had to fight smart and make adjustments.”

After a close first half of the fight, the Los Angeles native Roman began to figure out the awkward and hard-charging attack of Mexico’s Espinoza. In round seven, Roman connected on a vicious combination of double left uppercuts, punctuated by a sweeping left hook, that bloodied the nose of Espinoza.

“I felt good overall in there,” said Espinoza. “I could have pressured him a bit more and closed his angles, but it was a good fight. Danny is a tough fighter who withstood a lot of shots to the head. He’s a quality fighter.”

Espinoza had actually out landed Roman 124 to 119 across the first six rounds of the fight before Roman’s adjustments led to a 101 to 66 edge in punches landed in his favor across the final four frames.

“I started to get my distance and started fighting my fight and controlling the ring,” said Roman. “Once I did that, everything started to fall into place. I was surprised he went the distance, but he has a lot of heart. He’s a tough fighter.”

The bloodied nose immediately became a target for Roman, as Espinoza had to be checked by the doctor before beginning the ninth round before continuing to take the brunt of the punishment in the fight. Roman’s performance in the second half of the duel was enough to give him the victory, as he prevailed on all three judges’ scorecards with tallies of 97-92 and 98-92 twice. All three judges gave Roman the final six rounds of the fight.

“I’m the mandatory so I want a title shot now,” added Roman after his victory. “I want the winner of the main event.”

In the opening bout of the telecast, rising super featherweight contender Xavier Martinez (17-0, 11 KOs) remained unbeaten with a unanimous decision victory over former title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs) in an action-packed 10-round fight.

“I could have boxed him more but I wanted to give the fans action,” said Martinez. “There’s nothing to complain about – I got the victory. I made it tougher on myself but I will learn from it. It’s back to the drawing board but it’s a great victory.”

“I am happy and excited to put on a good show,” said Burgos. “All in all, I am just glad that the fans enjoyed the fight.”

The veteran Burgos looked to press his opponent from the outset, but Martinez was up to the task and found spots to land counter left hooks early and often. Martinez rode his counterpunching success to a 294 to 245 advantage in power shots landed throughout a fight that was dominated by power punches.

“I wasn’t surprised he came forward,” said Martinez. “He’s a tough competitor. I thank him for taking the fight, he was tough as hell. These kinds of fights are going to help me get better.”

Martinez also held the edge in accuracy, landing 37% of his punches to his opponent’s 31% connect rate. It was the body attack that kept Burgos in the fight, as his best moments came when racking up his 54 to 44 lead in body shots landed.

“He was a great opponent,” said Burgos. “I was brought in on late notice just two weeks in advance. That’s not an excuse but just the reality. Martinez fought a hell of a fight. He is definitely one of the best opponents I have ever faced.”

The two men punctuated their action fight with wild exchanges in the 10th round, as Martinez landed big shots that seemed to only make Burgos more eager to continue pushing forward. After the final bell, all three judges saw the fight in favor of Martinez, by the score of 99-91 three times. SHOWTIME’s unofficial ringside scorer Steve Farhood scored the fight 98-92.

“I was surprised by the scores,” said Burgos. “I did not think I only won one round. The public opinion and the fact that the fans were booing is what I take with me today. The fans spoke louder than the cards. I am glad to have given them an exciting fight.”

“It was a fun fight,” said Martinez. “I know the fans enjoyed the fight. I thought I could have done better, but I was landing clean, hard shots throughout. Even when he was throwing, I was slipping a lot of them and catching him. I showed I can hang in there with tough fighters.”

Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Figueroa: ‘I don’t think he’s going to want to go toe-to-toe with me’

Unbeaten WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa gave updates on his current training camp and previewed his showdown against Damien Vazquez taking place Saturday, September 26 on part one of a first-of-its-kind SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

The 23-year-old Figueroa has begun to make a name for himself as a force in the 122-pound division and has moved past being known primarily as the younger brother of former champion Omar Figueroa. However, it is the encouragement and motivation he receives from his brother, in addition to his father and head trainer, Omar Sr., and his sister and strength and conditioning coach, Omayra, that has helped him get to this point.

“It’s great to have my family behind me because they understand what I fight for,” said Figueroa. “Especially in a career like this, it’s not easy, and they help me a lot both mentally and physically. I’m grateful that they support and push me the way that they do.

“Training camp for this fight has been going really well. I’ve been sparring a lot with Omar Juarez and a number of guys from here in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ve just been helping each other out, keeping busy and keeping the work rate up.”

Figueroa returns to defend his title after fighting to an exciting draw against Julio Ceja in a November clash. Figueroa is set on making up for what he sees as far from his best performance, and believes that the extra rest time because of the pandemic will end up being an advantage..

“Heading into my last fight, I had some injuries that I was dealing with,” said Figueroa. “But with this pandemic and the quarantine, I got a chance to recover and fully heal. I’ve never had this much time between fights, so I feel great now and I’m prepared for this fight. I’m just anxious to fight at this point.

“I don’t take anything away from Ceja though. He came to fight. But we learn from every fight. What I took away from it was that even at the worst moment of my career, I didn’t lose. I’m a different fighter now, though. I’m healthy heading into this upcoming fight and I feel like everyone is going to see a different type of Brandon Figueroa.”

Figueroa’s September 26 foe Vazquez has already stated that he plans to make their title fight a “Mexican war” full of toe-to-toe action. For Figueroa, no stranger to action fights himself, he sees that as playing into his hands.

“I feel like the action fighting has been my style and game plan since day one,” said Figueroa. “But I obviously believe I’d also have an advantage boxing him at distance. So he can say whatever he wants, I don’t think he’s going to want to go toe-to-toe with me. I can guarantee you he’ll regret that.

“I see this as the biggest opportunity of my career, and Vazquez is standing in my way. This is my chance to show everyone why I’m one of the best fighters in the world. I’m ready, I’m focused on September 26 and I can’t wait to showcase my skills.”

The stacked doubleheader lineup includes a number of top fighters in and around the 122-pound division, including a vacant WBC title fight between Luis Nery and Aaron Alameda, plus former unified champion Danny Roman battling Juan Carlos Payano in a title eliminator. In addition, the winner of a future fight between recently crowned WBO champion Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton could loom as a possible opponent down the road. No matter who Figueroa may face next, he is in position to deliver action for boxing fans.

“At this point, I feel like any fight with me against a top 122-pounder is a great fight,” said Figueroa. “I’m willing to mix it up with any of them. I honestly don’t care who wants to fight me, I’ll take any of them to put on a great show for the fans. My team knows that as well. So hopefully after September 26 we can make a great fight with any of the other top fighters in my division.”

The unprecedented pay-per-view twin bill features six compelling fights in all, five of which are world title fights, on the same night for one price. Part one of the SHOWTIME PPV telecast begins live at a special time of 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT with the three-fight card topped by unbeaten WBC Champion Jermall Charlo facing top contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Figueroa will defend his title against 122-pound contender Vázquez in the co-featured bout, while WBO Bantamweight World Champion John Riel Casimero faces off against unbeaten Duke Micah in the pay-per-view opener.

Following a 30-minute intermission, the second three-fight card, headlined by the historic unification matchup between WBC Super Welterweight Champion Jermell Charlo and IBF and WBA 154-pound champion Jeison Rosario, will begin. Unbeaten former champion Nery will battle undefeated Alameda for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in the co-feature, while former unified champion Danny Román faces off against former champion Juan Carlos Payano in a WBC Super Bantamweight title eliminator bout to open the second installment of the pay-per-view.