Fulton, Aleem preview their fights on Saturday night

Undefeated WBO 122-pound world champion Stephen Fulton Jr. and unbeaten top contender Ra’eese Aleem previewed their respective showdowns during a Las Vegas media roundtable on Saturday, before they enter the ring in separate attractions live on SHOWTIME this Saturday, November 27 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

Fulton will square off against WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Brandon Figueroa in the main event, while Aleem battles Mexico’s Eduardo Báez in the co-main event of the telecast, which begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Here is what Fulton and Aleem, who are both training in Las Vegas for Saturday’s matchups, had to say at the media roundtable this past weekend:

STEPHEN FULTON JR.

“When I fought out in Nevada during the amateurs, I knew I would be back here fighting in Las Vegas one day as a pro. This has a totally different feel to it but I’m just focused on getting the job done and winning.

“I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I’m here for a reason. I’m not going to let the bright lights get to me. I was made for this and I take that mindset into the ring.

“Once I turned pro, I was on the path to becoming world champion. I’ve won a world title in the division I turned pro in, and now I’m unifying in my first fight as champion. I want to keep pushing forward and become undisputed at this weight class.

“My ability to adjust and outthink Figueroa is going to be the difference. That’s not to mention my speed and underrated power. I know Figueroa is going to throw a lot of punches, but I’m going to make him miss and capitalize on his mistakes.

“Everyone has a different path and for me that’s been taking dangerous fights against undefeated opponents. That’s made me a better fighter. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken some of those fights, but now I’ve got this resume that can stack up against anybody.”

 

RA’EESE ALEEM

“I’m extremely excited to be back doing what I love to do and to be fighting on a big SHOWTIME card. I’ve been getting great sparring out here in Las Vegas and I’m absolutely ready for Saturday.

“I’ve been working on really taking my time in the ring. Even if I’m being aggressive, I’m still taking my time while doing that. If I had taken my time against Vic Pasillas in my last fight, I would have stopped him in the sixth round. I was pushing the pace when I didn’t have to.

“I would love to fight Stephen Fulton. I believe that I’m the best in the division and some people think that he’s the best. If he wins this fight and I win Saturday, that’s the fight I want next. I’m ready to make it happen.

“I just have to keep winning and make big statements in every fight. I’m going to keep earning more recognition. I’m just starting to show people who I really am and I can’t let up.”

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

Ra’eese Aleem believes he can defeat Stephen Fulton

Undefeated super bantamweight contender, Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs), who captured the WBA Interim title in his last fight, will be sitting ringside at today’s highly anticipated showdown between Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) and Brandon Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs).

Aleem, who is currently ranked WBA #1, is targeting all the champions at 122-pounds, especially WBO Champion, Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs). Since unified champion, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who holds the IBF and WBA titles, fights for another network, Aleem says Fulton should be fighting him before he steps in the ring with the winner of Nery-Figueroa.

“Stephon Fulton is a great fighter, a good boxer, but if we step in the ring, I’ll give him his first loss.” Aleem stated. “He’s waiting on the sidelines for the winner of Nery-Figueroa, and we should be fighting, and the winner of Fulton and I should be fighting them. Let’s keep it real, every time I’ve stepped up, I’ve dominated. The biggest duck in the division is definitely Fulton.”

Aleem, who is managed by Greg Hannley of Prince Ranch Boxing and promoted by Marshall Kauffman’s Kings Promotions, is a on a mission to become the undisputed champion at super bantamweight, and won’t stop calling out all the champions until he gets his shot.

PBC, Showtime announce schedule, including cards headlined by Davis, Charlo Twins

SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions today unveiled a loaded five-month boxing schedule of nine high-stakes world championship events beginning Saturday, May 15, live on SHOWTIME. The schedule delivers two events per month through August. Thirteen matchups have been announced thus far with no less than seven world title fights, and 12 fighters defending undefeated records. The lineup features many of boxing’s best young fighters taking on career-defining challenges in their primes. All fights on the schedule will take place before a live audience, keeping with applicable local COVID-19 safety protocols.

The sizzling summer run features the dynamic Charlo twins as undefeated electrifying champion Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight world title against Juan Macias Montiel in a special Juneteenth homecoming in Houston on Saturday, June 19, live on SHOWTIME.

The following Saturday, June 26, unbeaten Mayweather Promotions star Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up two weight classes for a chance to become a three-division world champion when he takes on fellow undefeated champion Mario Barrios for his super lightweight world title in what will be Davis’ second pay-per-view showdown.

The next month, WBC, WBA and IBF 154-pound charismatic world champion Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he takes on WBO junior middleweight world champion Brian Castaño in a mega-fight to crown the first four-belt 154-pound world champion. The World Championship Unification bout takes place on Saturday, July 17, live on SHOWTIME.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule features eight editions of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and one premier SHOWTIME PPV event, all presented by Premier Boxing Champions:

  • MAY 15 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Luis Nery vs. Brandon Figueroa, WBC Super Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Danny Roman vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco, Super Bantamweight Fight
    • Xavier Martinez vs. Abraham Montoya, WBA Super Featherweight Fight
  • MAY 29 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire, WBC Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev, IBF Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
  • JUNE 19 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel, WBC Middleweight World Title Fight
  • JUNE 26 – SHOWTIME PPV
    • Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios, WBA Super Lightweight World Title Fight
    • Erickson Lubin vs. Jeison Rosario, WBC Junior Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • JULY 3 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Chris Colbert vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title Fight
  • JULY 17 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castaño, Undisputed IBF, WBA, WBC & WBO Junior Middleweight World Title Unification Fight
  • AUGUST 14 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. John Riel Casimero, WBO Bantamweight World Title Fight
  • AUGUST 28– SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui, WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • SEPTEMBER 11 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Stephen Fulton, Jr. vs. winner of Nery-Figueroa, Super Bantamweight World Title Unification Fight

The boxing action begins on SHOWTIME on Saturday, May 15 with the highly anticipated WBC super bantamweight world championship fight between Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa. The battle of two unbeaten champions who have been on a collision course for supremacy in the 122-pound division headlines a three-fight SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast. Rounding out the May 15 event, former unified super bantamweight world champion Danny Roman faces the tough, hard-hitting Ricardo Espinoza and super featherweight rising contender Xavier Martinez takes on the experienced Abraham Montoya.

Two weeks later on Saturday, May 29, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will present the long-awaited title tilt between Nordine Oubaali and future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire for the WBC bantamweight world championship. The undercard will feature Subriel Matias taking on undefeated Batyrzhan Jukembayev in the stiffest test of their professional careers as they meet in an IBF super lightweight title eliminator.

This summer, the thrilling Charlo twins will headline separate SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING events to defend their titles.

In a Juneteenth Day celebration on Saturday, June 19, in his hometown of Houston, unbeaten WBC middleweight world champion Jermall Charlo takes on the power-punching Juan Macias Montiel. After claiming a championship in the 154-pound division, Charlo moved up in weight and has been just as dominant. The battle against Montiel will be Charlo’s fifth defense of his 160-pound title. Charlo is coming off a career-defining victory over Sergey Derevyanchenko in September.

On Saturday, June 26, current two-division world champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis looks to become a three-division world champion when he returns to headline his second SHOWTIME PPV event. Davis, 26, will jump up two weight classes from his last contest to face unbeaten super lightweight world champion Mario Barrios. Davis is coming off a career-best victory over world champion Leo Santa Cruz. The co-main event that evening will feature a high-stakes WBC junior middleweight world title eliminator between Erickson Lubin and former unified 154-pound world champion Jeison Rosario.

Then, on Saturday, July 17, one month after his brother’s fight, Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he defends his WBC, WBA and IBF junior middleweight world titles against undefeated WBO world champion Brian Castaño in one of the most highly anticipated and important matches of the year. Charlo aims to achieve something that has never been done in boxing history by becoming the first fighter to be undisputed champion at 154 pounds in the four-belt era. Charlo has held the WBC title since 2019 and added the WBA and IBF titles with a stunning knockout victory over Jeison Rosario in his last fight in September.

Also in July, undefeated rising star Chris Colbert of Brooklyn, N.Y. will defend his WBA super featherweight interim title against three-division world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa in a crossroads bout on Saturday, July 3. The 24-year old Colbert is coming off a career best victory, a knockout win over Jaime Arboleda in December 2020. The Cuban-born Gamboa seeks to reassert himself by moving back down to super featherweight where he has excelled throughout his career.

August will feature another pair of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING events. On Saturday, August 14, two of the best bantamweights in the world will meet when former unified world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux faces John Riel Casimero for Casimero’s WBO bantamweight world title.

Two weeks later, on Saturday, August 28, undefeated two-time former super middleweight world champion David Benavidez will face former super middle champion Jose Uzcategui in a fight that will put the winner one step closer to a world championship opportunity. Benavidez, 24, made boxing history when he became the youngest super middleweight world champion at age 20 with a victory over Ronald Gavril in 2017.

On Saturday, September 11, the red-hot 122-pound division will take center stage once again on SHOWTIME as the WBO junior featherweight world champion Stephen Fulton, Jr. will make the first defense of his title against the winner of the May 15 clash between undefeated champions Nery and Figueroa. The unification fight will be the main event on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING.

Fulton: ‘To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia’

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.”

Leo: ‘My experiences with Floyd(Mayweather) last camp going to really put me in a great position going’

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.”

Leo on becoming champion: ‘It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it just feels surreal’

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

Fulton tests positive for COVID-19; Leo will face Williams

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

Photo/courtesy: Showtime