PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 23, 2021  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Amanda Westcott / Showtime


West Philly's Stephen Fulton became the 33rd Philadelphian to win a world championship when he defeated Angelo Leo by 12-round unanimous decision at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT, Saturday night, January 23, 2021. The fight was broadcast live on Showtime.

Fulton, known for his exceptional skill at boxing from a distance, instead elected to bring the fight directly to Leo. And so the two waged a busy trench war from the opening bell. With Leo considered the more equipped boxer to fight in this style, Fulton's strategy seemed a risky move. Leo was effective during the first four rounds, but by the fifth Fulton was in charge of the fight.

"Cool Boy Steph" out-worked the champion and kept such a torrid pace in the fight that Leo began to wilt by the fight's midpoint. The champ was breathing heavily in the corner and although he remained competitive throughout the fight, his effectiveness eroded with his energy level. Fulton picked up the pace even further and began to surge as the fight progressed.

Over the second half of the bout, Fulton was in charge. He remained on the inside, choosing to beat Leo at his own game. It was beautiful - if also slightly uncomfortable - to watch. For the entire duration of the fight, I couldn't help but wonder why Fulton was choosing to make the fight harder for him than it needed to be. When he did move the action to the outside, something he did rarely, he was winning with ease. Still he insisted on stepping in close and trading blows with the rough-and-tumble champion.

Perhaps Fulton chose this more aggressive approach to make the fight more fun to watch. It did that to be sure. Perhaps he chose his fight plan just to prove to Leo - and everyone else - that he could win this fight by doing what the champion does best. He did that too. Who knows why? Young men have things to prove that old men have trouble understanding.

In any case, Fulton proved everything he set out to prove. There can be no argument in that. It was an exhibition of total control, enormous ability and hinted at a boundless future for Fulton. The truth is, I like fighters who are willing to take chances, even though I prefer it when those chances are necessary.  But, I will take it. Fulton clearly knows what he is doing.

What's more is that Fulton had not fought in nearly one year (363 days) and still he appeared to have not the slightest bit of rust in his performance. His aggressive tactics wore his opponent down and displayed his own tremendous physical conditioning. The post-fight CompuBox punch statistics indicated that the Philadelphian had thrown nearly 1,200 punches during the fight (1,183 total punches by Fulton and 810 by Leo). And it appeared he did it with ease.

The official scores were one-sidedly in favor of Fulton. Steve Weisfeld score the bout 118-110 and both Frank Lombardi and John McKaie had it 119-109. My score was a bit closer, 117-111, or 9-3 in rounds.

The victory improved Fulton's undefeated record to 19-0, 8 KOs. Leo lost for the first time as a professional and left with a 20-1, 9 KOs, record.

The pair were originally matched to fight for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title on August 1, 2020. However during the week of the fight, Fulton and a few of his team members tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to pull out of the bout. Leo went on to defeat late replacement Tramaine Williams by unanimous decision and won the belt. Fulton was named as Leo's mandatory challenger, and the January 23rd date was eventually set.

Fulton becomes Philly's only current world champion, and by every indication from  Saturday night, he very well may be a champion for some time to come.


One the undercard, Philly's Avery Sparrow (above right) stepped in with one day's notice to face undefeated prospect Rolando Romero of Las Vegas. Romero dropped Sparrow in round one and went on to dominate the action, en route to a seventh round TKO in their scheduled 12-round lightweight bout. The time of the stoppage was 43 seconds into round seven. Romero improved to 13-0, 11 KOs. Sparrow lost his second in a row and slipped to 10-3, with 3 KOs and 1 No Contest.


Michigan-born Las Vegan, Raeese Aleem (above right) stopped Californian Vic Passilas in round eleven to win the WBA Interim junior featherweight title belt. Aleem scored knockdowns in rounds two, six, nine and eleven. Finally referee Danny Schiavone halted the bout at 1:00 of the eleventh round. Aleem is promoted by Marshall Kauffman's Kings Promotions, and becomes the first world champion for Kauffman (as a promoter) and his promotional company.




John DiSanto - Uncasville, CT (via Showtime) - January 23, 2021