This Thanksgiving weekend, boxing fans have something to be thankful about from the way the sport has finished strong after a mediocre summer. On deck for Saturday is a pair of main events on Showtime & DAZN featuring Brandon Figueroa vs. Stephen Fulton & Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos. The Showtime fight is the closer-matched of the two on paper but let’s not forget the undisputed lightweight crown is a stake as well. I will start with the DAZN headliner since it seems to be pretty straightforward.
It’s hard to believe a year and change has passed since Teofimo Lopez dethroned the lineal champion at 135 Vasiliy Lomachenko. Very similar to the way Oleksandr Usyk lost some momentum after becoming the king at cruiserweight, that has happened to Teofimo. Of course, Usyk has started a new wave of buzz by defeating Anthony Joshua. And no, Lopez’s opponent is not a top-flight boxer at lightweight, but that’s why they fight the fights. The odds are low that this is a trap fight, but it would be a major upset if Teo were caught slipping. His talent level and potential limit him from dropping the ball here.
George Kambosos is not a throwaway foe after getting a good win over Lee Selby via split-decision. Of course, Lee Selby at lightweight compared to him at featherweight is a bit different. Let us not forget before that victory, George scored another split-decision victory, this time over Mickey Bey Jr. Not bad; however, Mickey had fought once in 3 plus years, so it really doesn’t equate to a whole lot. Kambosos does seem to have remained in good shape and spirits judging by his interviews, but this drawn-out process had to affect him in some fashion. One thing is for sure George does talk a good game so let’s hope he walks all that talk in the ring on Saturday night.
There is a chance that Teofimo Lopez has issues making the weight; if that’s the case, this thing could get ugly. Lopez has spoken numerous times over the last year that the 135-pound weight class continues to get more difficult to make. If Lopez is weight drained, this podcaster sees him looking strong in the first half only to struggle down the stretch. The stops and starts involved in this promotion had to of messed up the fighter’s routines, and that can include weight. Also, coming down with Covid-19 doesn’t help. If Lopez is 100% or close to it, this hardcore boxing fan has Teofimo stopping Kambosos by the 8th or 9th round. To make an exact prediction or for those wanting to put money on George should probably wait for the weigh-in.
My Official Prediction is Teofimo Lopez by mid-to-late KO.
Now on to the Showtime main event, which features undefeated fighters in Brandon Figueroa and Stephen Fulton. This is a great boxer versus puncher matchup, which should really heat up once the opening minutes of feeling out expire. As a prospect, ‘Cool Boy’ Fulton was tested more, having faced a variety of unbeaten boxers on the way up. Fights against Joshua Greer Jr., Arnold Khegai, and Adam Lopez helped Stephen develop into the fighter he is now. At the contender level, Figueroa has the advantage of facing Julio Ceja and Luis Nery. The Ceja fight that ended in a draw appeared to create a ceiling for Figueroa. However, as an underdog, Brandon took apart a highly-touted boxer in Luis Nery. In Fulton’s last appearance in January, he showed out by dominating a quality guy in Angelo Leo.
Brandon’s strengths are his work rate, body punching, and inside work, in general, to go along with power punching. His weakness appears to be the lack of consistent defense which could get him in trouble on the scorecards this Saturday. Stephen’s main strength is his all-around skills to outbox and counter punch on the outside or on the edge of the pocket. He can bang it out in the trenches and has shown he is more than capable of landing punches off the ropes. His only weakness is the lack of punching power, to an extent, of course.
Weight could be a problem for Brandon when we’ve recently heard that Figueroa is thinking about moving up to featherweight, and with his frame, it’s probably a good idea. Regardless of who wins this 122-pound matchup, we should get a highly-entertaining scrap. Look for Fulton to get out of the gates fast as he works behind his jab and score points on the outside. Stephen isn’t the ‘running’ type of fighter, which lends itself to Figueroa having a fair amount of success. Brandon can’t make the mistake of putting the carriage before the horse, so he must establish a jab and use faints to cut the distance rather than heading inside with just a high guard. Technically Brandon has the reach, but it’s unlikely he will want to stick and move.
How many punches can Figueroa land per round, especially when and if he’s able to corner Fulton and get him stuck on the ropes? It’s a good question because Fulton is a busier fighter as well. One can assume Brandon’s goal will be to slow down Fulton, so a body attack and roughhouse tactics will be needed for a victory. How risky will Fulton be is another question to ask? If he opens up too much with combos too early, he could leave holes in his defense. A simple land and quick clinch on the inside is the smartest thing to do at times rather than fall for the trap of routinely exchanging with Figueroa. All and all, this should be fun to watch, but skills pay the bills, and Fulton has more ways to get his hand raised. I see around an 8-4 fight that shouldn’t take long to pop off. By the way, Figueroa sitting as a +250 and up is well worth the flyer.
My Official Prediction is Stephen Fulton via Majority-Decision.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio