More Than Slick: Stephen Fulton says he is a “smart fighter first and foremost” | Boxing News

BN: You’re not only the visiting fighter against a popular opponent in a significant fight, you’re travelling to a location where considerably less is known about the judging. What are you expecting?

I forgot where the judges are actually from. I think it will be fair enough – I think the judging will be fair. I don’t have it in my heart to say that they will try to do anything wrong. I normally get a feeling, and I don’t have that feeling. I feel like it won’t even matter if it came down to the judges, but I feel it will be fair if it does.

I had that feeling in the [in 2019, Isaac] Avelar fight. My coach [Wahid Rahim] was there too. And I stopped him – knocked him out with a body shot. I was actually winning that fight but I believe they had me down on the scorecards.

BN: Two weeks ago Jaron “Boots” Ennis impressed in beating Roiman Villa, furthering the revival of the Philadelphia fight scene you two have been leading…

Yeah, he had a hell of a performance. I like the way he performed. He showcased great skill; sportsmanship; he was comfortable in there. He was himself, and that’s all I gotta do [against Naoya Inoue] – is go in there and be comfortable and relaxed.

I wouldn’t say everyone in Philadelphia is like that [close-knit], but genuine guys like me and Jaron Ennis, and Danny Garcia – we can put ourselves in that category, but I wouldn’t say the whole boxing scene is like that. I would definitely say not all of the people in Philadelphia are like that, but you do have some great people, and some great friendships with a lot of people that are connected within the city.

Plenty of times, previously [Ennis has been in touch to offer support]. We haven’t talked recently but you know, leading up, man. I know once the fight comes, or weigh-ins or whatever, he’s definitely gonna reach out.

BN: Ahead of your biggest test, how much have you thought about the late Naazim Richardson, and the influence he had on you?

I was the last fighter that Naazim worked with. I was the last one. I went to see him in the hospital a day or two before his passing. I was one of the only fighters that went up there, besides his family. Me and my coaches – we went up there. I was the last fighter he worked with but I haven’t thought much on it until today – like, “Damn”.

I don’t know what made me just think of him out of nowhere [laughs]. You just have a thought process – nothing major.

He’s the one who asked me the question, “What type of fighter are you?” And I think I said like “Slick”, this that and the third, but he shut that down. He said, “Nah, you’re an intelligent fighter – you’re smart”. And now, when you hear me in interviews and somebody asks what type of fighter I am, I always state the obvious – ‘cause I am that and I didn’t limit myself to just having speed, or power. Nah – I’m a smart fighter first and foremost, and I’d like to take my hat off to Brother Naazim for allowing me to see that about myself and giving me the insight. It was a powerful message in such little words.

In some ways [he helped me evolve]. He was impactful in the amateurs as well.

BN: Is this your defining fight?

Yes. On paper, yes. On paper. But not in physical form for myself – nah.

There’s more to come in life. I’m not looking past it [pauses to reflect] – I wouldn’t say I’m looking past it. I would only say I know what’s to come for myself once I’ve beaten him and overcome this fight.

BN: Is fighting Naoya Inoue, in Japan, the most intimidating challenge in boxing? When was the last time a fighter was considered as menacing?

Probably. Probably. I’m not sure [when the last time was]. I wasn’t huge on watching boxing coming up. I just always was good at it. So I couldn’t really give you a specific person, but I would say like around that [Gennady] Golovkin era.

You don’t really worry about somebody saying that they’re intimidating. When you have different upbringings, and you know your upbringing – how hard it is to make it where you made it from – then nothing is intimidating. What is intimidating? We fight. What is the intimidating part? Because he’s known for his power? Like, okay. Where do the other intimidating aspects come from? What can he possibly do to hurt me? Besides from having power. Like, people [pauses] – since I’ve been out here, this week alone, three people that I’ve known, have died, in Philadelphia. So you get what I’m saying? Literally three people that I’ve known have died. Two of them got killed; one of them died from cancer.

I’m not sure – I don’t wanna put that [the circumstances surrounding the other two deaths] on record – to say it was [crime-related], but, literally… So it’s like where you come from – where I’m from, and you have a guy, I couldn’t say if he is like that or he isn’t, but, I don’t think that [Inoue] was raised like that, you know? He was raised like a good kid. Nothing intimidating about him. He was just a great fighter.

I don’t reflect on [my upbringing in Philadelphia and how I very nearly went down a different path] as much, but I just always feel like, “Damn, we was just guys playing”. Like, this was meant for me. And that’s how I look at where I’m at right now. This was meant for me.

BN: How significant are you expecting your size advantage to prove?

I’ll see at one o’clock. Within a few hours I’ll see him at the press conference. I haven’t seen him yet so I wouldn’t know, ‘till I physically see him. Today will be the first time.

It all depends on how I use my size difference. That’s what it leads down to.

I [before today] brought up my previous opponent Brandon [Figueroa, who I beat in 2021] a couple times. He has the huge size difference but, you know, he fought me on the inside. He had a huge size difference and if maybe he were to box me or something it probably would have been different. It’s all about, how do you use your size difference?

One of [the keys to victory could come in that]. I can see that. I can see that, yeah.

BN: Having experienced the postponement of your fight with Angelo Leo after you tested positive for coronavirus, what went through your mind when Vergil Ortiz, who has previously struggled with long Covid, was ruled out of his fight with Eimantas Stanionis?

That wasn’t a fight like, “I’m looking forward to it” – I wasn’t really looking forward to that fight ‘cause I wasn’t really worried about that fight [Ennis stopped Villa in the 10th round on a different bill on the same evening]. But I’m glad that he’s okay now – I have to say that. Well, I don’t have to say that, but I can say that. I’m glad that he’s okay now but I didn’t really put too much thought into that fight.

It’s very difficult [to endure that] ‘cause you have to deal with yourself – your body – rejecting itself, and your physical health. Emotional state of mind – you have to deal with the fans. Now they’re talking shit about you. You have to deal with – it’s like – you have to deal with fighting yourself ‘cause you knew how hard you worked. And sometimes when you know how hard you’ve worked and you may look at it like, “I did this for nothing”, when there’s always a reason – everything happens for a reason.

But in the heat of the moment you don’t look at it that way. So I feel like as a fighter you have to deal with a lot. On your own, no matter how many people was in your corner, you’re still the one in there on your own. Whether it’s in the ring or in your head, you’re the one putting that physical work in in the gym. It’s a lonely sport so you’re always alone. So I definitely feel for him now. And now I’m speaking on the subject ‘cause that is very hard to overcome, but, you know, we’re fighters – there’s nothing that we can’t overcome.

BN: You’re about to be involved in a very appealing fight just days before Errol Spence-Terence Crawford – the biggest fight of the year – in Las Vegas. How much of a footprint does it feel like that fight has in Tokyo this week?

Yeah, it’s all about Fulton and Inoue over here. Nothing but posters in the malls; train stations; stuff like that on the buildings. It’s all about that down here. On social media I see things but not physically – I haven’t seen it.

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