*WBC super bantamweight champion Brandon Figueroa is predicting a late-round knockout in Saturday’s 122-pound unification clash of unbeatens with WBO counterpart Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton, who specifically vows to KO “The Heartbreaker” in the ninth.
The switch-hitting Figueroa (22–0–1, 17 KOs) is seeking his third straight knockout and his 10th in 11 bouts. Meanwhile, Fulton (19–0, 8 KOs), pursues his ninth victory over an undefeated opponent at the Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
“I don’t think Stephen Fulton has faced anyone close to me. I hit hard, can deliver power as a left-hander or as a right-hander, and I’m always on top of you making sure you can’t catch your breath,” said Figueroa, who has advantages in height (5-foot-8 to 5-foot-6 and a half) and reach (72 inches to 70 and a half) over Fulton.
“I’ve fought fighters who are fast, slick and have power. I’ve always come out on top, and Stephen Fulton is no different. He will definitely feel my relentless pressure, body work and power. I feel like it will be a late-round stoppage against Fulton.”
Figueroa’s positive COVID-19 test earlier in the month postponed a previously scheduled bout with Fulton from Sept. 18.
“Everything is going well, and I’ve come back stronger than ever,” said Figueroa, 24, who is 9–0–1 (9 KOs) in his past 10 fights. “We are days away from this huge fight, and I feel like it’s going to be ‘Fight of the Year’. It’s going to steal the show. I’m coming with everything.”
Fulton, who is from Philadelphia, believes he’ll be able to exploit anything Figueroa offers.
“Figueroa is going to engage with me more than most of my past opponents have. Him fighting with the style he likes to use is going to bring out more of what I can do. Figueroa doesn’t use his range, he doesn’t use his height, so technically, I’ll be the bigger fighter, the taller fighter and the rangier fighter. He doesn’t know how to use those abilities that he has,” said Fulton, 27.
“He only has one way to fight. We’ll size each other up over the early rounds, and in the mid rounds, it will come down to who slows first. I see myself adjusting to his style and being victorious, and I feel like I can get the stoppage in around the ninth. I want to beat him convincingly, then follow this up with another unification fight toward being considered one of the best-ever super bantamweights.”
Figueroa’s last victory in May was a sensational seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Luis Nery of Mexico, a 26-year-old southpaw who entered at 31–0 (24 KOs) and whose WBC crown was added to Figueroa’s WBA version. In August, Figueroa was stripped after four defenses of the WBA crown he had earned via eighth-round knockout of Yonfrez Parejo in April 2019.
“Nery was spectacular in the 118-pound division and had the backing of Mexico. But I ended him in spectacular fashion after everyone doubted me,” said Figueroa, who finished Nery with a left uppercut to the solar plexus. “I broke Nery down and got him outta there. A lot of people underestimated me against [Luis] Nery, but my game plan was to go out there and dominate.”
Figueroa also owns stoppages in the third and 10th rounds over former titleholders Moises Flores (Jan. 2019) and Oscar Escandon (Sept. 2018), the former getting knocked out for the first time in his career.
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“Some people say that I have terrible defense, yet I’m still undefeated,” Figueroa said. “I’m still knocking out world champions and former world champions. This will be no different. It’s going to be the same story as always.”
Nicknamed “The Heartbreaker” for his matinée idol features, Figueroa is two fights removed from a ferocious, split-draw with former champion Julio Ceja (November 2019), who was 4.5 pounds over the 122-pound limit.
“I feel like Fulton has fought guys who have been undefeated, but not the caliber of my opponents,” said Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas. “They’re former world champions who have been in tough fights, which gives me more of an edge. I feel like I’m at the peak of my career, bringing that old-school mentality back where champions fight champions.”
Fulton was 13–0 (6 KOs) when he traveled to Northern Ireland to serve as principal sparring partner for two-division champion Carl Frampton in advance of “The Jackal’s” unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire in April 2018 for the WBO’s 126-pound interim crown.
Frampton tweeted a photo of himself and Fulton with their arms around each other and credited “Cool Boy Steph” for his “great work, talent and slickness” in advance of scoring a body-shot knockdown in the eighth round of a ninth-round TKO of previously undefeated 2012 Australian Olympic team captain Luke Jackson (16–1, 7 KOs) in August 2018.
“Going over there changed me as a fighter as far as my overall style and skill set,” said Fulton, whose subsequent bout was a ninth-round TKO of Jesus Ahumada (June 2018). “My movement, footwork, speed, punch output, punching power and shot selection have all improved.”
Fulton last fought in January, his unanimous decision dethroning previously unbeaten WBO titleholder Angelo Leo, who entered at 21–0 (9 KOs). At times during his fight with Leo, Fulton engaged toe to toe, winning battles on the inside based on his speed, accuracy, elusiveness and respectable power.
“They say, ‘we’re gonna rough him up, we’re gonna bang him out.’ I get into that. Put my back against the wall and see what I do,” Fulton said. “I like the negative comments about me, that I have pillow fists, no power, and I’m gonna get knocked out. Put my back against the wall and watch what I do.”
Leo had won a clash of unbeatens and the crown by unanimous decision in August 2020 over southpaw Tramaine Williams, a replacement after Fulton tested positive for COVID.
“During the COVID period I felt alone, got a little depressed at one point. I wanted to beat Leo by winning the vacant belt, but at the same time, I got to dethrone him to win it, which was just as satisfying. Figueroa’s a brawler using that pressure, wear-you-down type of style,” Fulton said.
“I highly believe in my intelligence, abilities, speed and power. Yes he’s undefeated, but I enjoy fighting undefeated fighters. We’ve been on this path for a long time, so I know he’ll be mentally worn down before I am. I can’t wait to get into the ring. I want to be the first to beat him and get it over with.”
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Kristen Butler
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