LAS VEGAS – There are two opponents that interest Stephen Fulton within the 122-pound division.
The unbeaten WBC/WBO champion’s preferred fight is a showdown with Murodjon Akhmadaliev, which, barring a draw or no-contest, would crown another fully unified champion. If Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KOs), a southpaw from Uzbekistan who owns the IBF and WBA “super” titles, doesn’t agree to face him next, Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) would battle Brandon Figueroa again.
Fulton’s majority-decision defeat of Figueroa las month clearly warrants an immediate rematch. Their 12-rounder was one of the best action fights of 2021 and a case clearly could be made that Figueroa deserved at least a draw.
Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, called his first professional defeat “the robbery of the year” in the ring after Philadelphia’s Fulton defeated him 116-112, 116-112 and 114-114 at Park MGM’s Dolby Live.
One opponent that doesn’t interest Fulton is Ra’esse Aleem, who defeated Eduardo Baez by majority decision in a 10-rounder on the Fulton-Figueroa undercard. Showtime televised Aleem’s victory as its co-feature before Fulton fended off Figueroa in the main event.
Aleem acknowledged during their post-fight press conference that he would welcome a shot at Fulton’s titles next. The 31-year-old Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs), of Muskegon, Michigan, figures to move up multiple spots from number 11 in the WBO’s junior featherweight rankings after beating Baez (20-2-2, 7 KOs) to win the NABO 122-pound crown, one of the WBO’s regional titles.
Unless Aleem becomes his mandatory challenger, however, Fulton doesn’t think there’s any benefit to fighting the former WBA interim super bantamweight champ.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought much of him,” Fulton told BoxingScene.com. “That’s my honest opinion. I seen him fight. I don’t think much of him because he don’t have anything that I want. Me fighting him will be a gain for him and no gain for me. What am I gaining out of that? I don’t have nothing to prove fighting him. He don’t have a title. So, it would be pointless for me to go backwards to fight someone without a title, rather than going ahead and fighting somebody with a title.
“Just because that person may talk sh!t or try to get me out of character just to get a fight, that doesn’t make sense. Right now, I have to be smart and make strategic business moves that makes sense business-wise and fight-wise for the fans. It only makes sense for me to go after the belts, rather than going backward to fight him. But from what I see, he’s an OK fighter. I’ve gotta give him that. He’s here, but who has he fought? That’s why everybody wanna fight me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.