Stephen Fulton set to shine for his Las Vegas debut

WBO junior featherweight champion Stephen Fulton Jr. was just an amateur, fighting in the annual Golden Gloves National Championships in nearby Mesquite, when he began to believe he would one day fight in Las Vegas.

“I knew I would be here fighting when I got pro,” Fulton recalled thinking. “I didn’t know when. I just knew I would.

Try Saturday night.

Fulton (19-0, eight KOs) makes his local debut at the Dolby Theater in Park MGM, where he will risk his title and unbeaten record against undefeated compatriot Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs).

Figueroa’s WBC crown is also on the line, making the 12-round unification fight one of the most important fights of this year to date.

“I’m here for a reason,” said Fulton, 27, of Philadelphia. “I don’t let the bright lights or anything get the best of me. This is what I’m supposed to do. I feel like it’s made for me. I was made for it.

Fulton says he developed his strong sense of confidence in Philadelphia, where he was raised by a single mother in the western part of the city. His fighting lineage includes legends like former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and former undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.

Fighting is a mentality there. A way of living.

Fulton was introduced to boxing at the age of 10 by his father when he was released from prison for armed robbery. At this point, “I was already Philly,” Fulton said. “He came home. I tried to build a relationship. … Once he made me practice boxing, I am a competitor. I wanted to be better than the kids on my team. So that’s what I did.

Domination on the amateur circuit preceded the trip to Mesquite in 2012 for the prestigious Golden Gloves National Championships. He lost that year, but rebounded in 2013 to win the 114-pound national championship in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He made his professional debut as a junior featherweight in 2015, beginning his trip to Las Vegas. Guided by Al Haymon’s early boxing champions, he grew into a skillful and skillful champion with a style based on technique and fundamentals.

He edged out Angelo Leo in January to win the WBO crown.

“I became a champion in my first weight class,” Fulton proudly proclaimed. “Now, my second fight being world champion, I am unifying. And I hope that once we get through this fight, we can unite again and become unchallenged. … Right now everything is in place for me to do this.

Aleem looks at the title

Muskegon, Mich., Native-turned-Las Vegan Raeese Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs) fights Eduardo Baez (20-1-2, seven KOs) in the co-feature on Saturday and hopes to earn title consideration with a signing performance.

“Every time I step in the ring I want to make a statement,” said Aleem, also a junior featherweight. “I have to make a statement.”

Aleem has lived in Las Vegas since 2017, but has yet to fight in his adopted hometown.

“This is my opportunity to gain a lot of new fans and to show everyone who Raeese Aleem is,” he said. “Ever since I moved here, I knew this would happen. It was just a matter of time. … It lasted four years. The grinding never stopped.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at [email protected] To follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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