More noted as a skilful stylist, Stephen Fulton beat Angelo Leo at his own game by excelling in the trenches to claim the WBO 122lbs crown and become the latest world champion in the city of Philadelphia’s rich boxing history.
In a feverish, all-action affair, Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) won on the inside and out on his way to a wide points decision that nonetheless gripped the attention throughout. Scores were 119-109 (twice) and 118-110 in Saturday night’s title bout at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
An accidental head clash in the first round opened a cut over Leo’s left eye but it was seldom a factor as the duo engaged in a riveting battle at close quarters, exchanging vicious body shots and throwing 1,993 punches in total, according to the official punch stats.
Leo (20-1, 9 KOs) was relentless, but Fulton met him head on, cranking up his work-rate in the second half of the fight to seal victory. The Philadelphian had been supposed to meet Leo for the vacant WBO crown last August before a failed Covid-19 test scuppered that dream. Leo won the title against late sub Tramaine Williams in his absence, but five months later Fulton would not be denied. He follows the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Joe Frazier and Matthew Saad Muhammad into Philadelphia boxing history.
“It feels good,” said Fulton. “I told you that I would engage more in this fight. I boxed a little but I engaged more to show him that I’m better than him at what he does best. I’m used to dealing with fighting inside the gym, inside the ring. Everyone I’ve fought tried to bully me. This time I did to them what they try to do to me. And I got the job done.
“I wore him down by attacking his body and pushing him back. I had to change the whole narrative, push him back and dropping those uppercuts in. That’s how I got the job done. From like the fifth round, that’s when I knew I was going to take off. I never got tired from engaging.
“After a year off, I feel I did a good job but I could be a lot better, a lot sharper. I want Luis Nery, Brandon Figueroa. I want all the champions. I want to be undisputed.”
Main photo and all images: Amanda Westcott/Showtime.