PERHAPS Stephen Fulton Jnr’s virtuoso performance against Daniel Roman in defence of the WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles was fait accompli the moment he got out of bed fight day.
“I told y’all I was going to make it easy and fight depending on how I wake up, and I woke up feeling good,” said “Cool Boy Seth” in the immediate aftermath of his unanimous 12-round decision over Roman before a sold-out crowd of 4,695 at the Minneapolis Armory.
Following demanding fights with Brandon Figueroa and Angelo Leo in which Fulton outslugged the sluggers, the 27-year-old Philadelphian adopted a more defensive approach for Roman. Fulton is a super striver who has compensated for his lack of a knockout punch excelling in skills most big punchers never even think about, let alone learn.
We saw a sample of Fulton’s defensive acumen the first three or four rounds of the Figueroa bout before he was drawn into a firefight by the ferocity of the Texan’s attack. It was one of 2021’s finest action fights with Fulton winning a narrow majority decision. The Roman fight was different. Fulton was in terrific conditioning and maintained unwavering focus in order to pull off a one-sided victory over a boxer of Roman’s stature.
Roman never stopped trying and stayed on his feet throughout the ordeal but was totally flummoxed by the variety of ways Fulton evaded his punches. The key was Fulton’s keen sense of distance and anticipation coupled with a remarkable skill set and rapid reflexes.
He led Roman a merry chase, ducking and dodging, moving in and out, skedaddling laterally first in one direction and the other. Sometimes he spun away from his adversary in a dizzying manner that practically turned Roman inside out. Blows were blocked by forearms and picked off with gloves. The overall effect was gradual, little by little round after round until the defensive specialist gave way to an aggressive livewire.
Nothing much happened in the opening round, but when Roman got inside and banged the body in the second it gave him and his fans reason to hope. He also managed to rough up Fulton early in the third but it didn’t last long. Fulton jab and straight right connected with growing frequency as the fight progressed without sacrificing his fluid defence.
There was another sliver of hope for the challenger in the seventh when he landed a flurry of body shots. When Fulton answered with a volley of his own it pretty much ended what little offensive success Roman enjoyed.
A particularly sharp right hand snapped Roman’s head back in the ninth round and he momentarily turned away, clearly stunned. The accumulation of punches had weakened him and opened the door for Fulton to connect with a hurtful-looking series of one-twos. It was a big round for Fulton, prologue to his all-out assault in the 11th round.
The left hook began to land as frequently as Fulton’s right hand, which meant more bad news for the 32-year-old Roman. “Cool Boy Steph” obviously enjoyed the freedom to cut loose following so many rounds of edge-of–the-cliff boxing. Fulton loves all-out fighting but is smart enough to know it is skills before thrills. When fun time kicked in he let hands go, pushed for what he really wanted—a knockout. Roman was ready go several times but was still fighting back the best he could when the final bell rang.
“I wanted to stop him but couldn’t get it,” Fulton said after winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-109 (Nathan Palmer), 120-108 (Patrick Morley) and 120-108 (Mike Fitzgerald). Referee Mark Nelson handled what was essentially a clean fight with minimal indifference.
“It was very important to control the distance tonight,” said Fulton who according to CompuBox landed 218 punches as compared to 113 for Roman. “Like I said before, in the last outing with Brandon Figueroa, I didn’t have the energy because I didn’t make the weight the right way. So shout out to my dietician. Any moment [Roman] had, I took it right away from him. I neutralized the threat.”
“There’s no excuse,” said Roman. “I think this fight proves who is the best 122-pound fighter in the division. Fulton did that tonight. He proved it. I wish him the best and I hope he goes and achieves what I couldn’t achieve. Go become undisputed. Like I said, this fight proved who is the best in the division. Fulton was the better man tonight.”
The winner is eager to win all four super bantamweight belts and become [i]the[i] world champion, which means taking on current WBA and IBF titlist Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the number two-ranked fighter in the division, who has to first get past Ronnie Rios in bout scheduled for June 25. If Akhmadaliev beats Rios he will likely be Fulton’s ultimate test at the weight. The undefeated Uzbek is fresher and hits harder than Roman.
Nonetheless, Fulton’s confidence knows no bound. He’s already talking about the winner of the Naoya Inoue-Nonito Donaire rematch and a possible second fight with Figueroa at featherweight. He wants it all and he wants it now. When asked his thoughts about possible future opponent during the build up to the Roman fight, Fulton was brief and to the point.
“None of these guys can beat me.”
Cuban expat David Morrell, now living in Minneapolis where he’s become a fan favorite, was responsible for helping sell-out the venue. He is the holder of a secondary WBA super middleweight title that was on the line in the chief supporting bout. The challenger was Kalvin “Hot Sauce” Henderson a Texan fighting out of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The 24-year-old Morrell who had an extensive amateur career in Cuba flew out of his corner and tore into Henderson. In short order he was belaboring him on the ropes with a virtually nonstop barrage of punches. Henderson landed a couple of nice counters but was overwhelmed by his rampaging adversary.
Somehow Henderson made it through the first round but might have been better off had he not. Southpaw Morrell quickly resumed his onslaught in the second landing heavy blows to the head at will. Referee Luis Pabon allowed Morrell to continue after a taking an exceptionally savage barrage, but finally stopped the rout at 2:35 mark.
Stephen Fulton (121½), 21-0 (8), w pts 12 Daniel Roman (121½), 29-4-1 (10); David Morrell (166½), 7-0 (6), w rsf 2 Kalvin Henderson (166½), 15-2-1 (11); Alfredo Santiago, 14-2 (6), w rsf 1 Karl Dargan, 20-2 (10); Jose Tito Sanchez, 9-0 (5), w pts 8 Ariel Perez De La Torre, 8-1 (6); Bek Nurmaganbet, 7-0 (5), w rsf 2 Khainell Wheeler, 7-2 (2); Travon Marshall, 6-0 (5), w rsf 6 Marcus Washington, 5-4 (2); Demler Zamora, 9-0 (8), w rsf 2 Raul Chirino, 19-15 (12); Yevgeniy Pavlov, 7-0 (5), w rsf 2 Alexis Salido, 2-3 (1); Ablaikhan Zhussupov, 2-0 (1) w rsf 1 Edgar Ramirez, 18-21 (14); Abilkhan Amankul, 1-0 (1), w rsf 3 Devontae McDonald (middle) 1-1 (1).