The trainer of undefeated, unified 122-pound World Champion Stephen Fulton breaks down the Sweet Science ahead of Fulton's match versus former world champ Danny Roman Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME.
Undefeated, unified WBC/WBO World Super Bantamweight Champion and Philadelphia native Stephen Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) defends his titles against former unified champ Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) this Saturday, June 4. The Premier Boxing Champions event will air live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from The Armory in Minneapolis.
Fulton’s head trainer, Wahid Rahim, has been on the team since Fulton was still an amateur boxer. Ahead of Saturday’s bout, Rahim sat down to discuss the ways Stephen Fulton utilizes the fundamentals of boxing inside the ring.
It All Starts With the Jab
In 2021, Fulton captured the WBO world title when he outpointed then-undefeated champion, Angelo Leo.
“In the Angelo Leo fight, Fulton stood right there and fought him in the pocket,” explained Rahim. “In the 11th round, he started to use the jab more, to keep his distance, and hold Leo at bay to secure the win.”
Fulton uses what is often called the most important punch in boxing in various ways depending on how it can help him in the moment.
“He’s a dynamic, versatile fighter,” said Rahim. “If he needs to use the jab to get out of trouble, to buy himself time, to set up combinations, he knows how. He knows how to use the jab in different ways which makes him dangerous.
“We make it a habit to practice the jab. I’ll tell him when he comes into the gym, ‘I need 200 jabs today.’ Before you know it, he may not realize it, but I’ve made him throw 400. If you practice something a lot, the muscles in the body remember it and it becomes natural. It becomes a habit.”
It is often said that the most dangerous punch is the one you don’t see—or expect.
“In boxing, everything is a rhythm. If somebody says, ‘1, 2, 3,’ what’s coming next? The 4. From the orthodox stance, it's the jab (1), right hand (2), left hook (3), then the right hand (4). That’s the pattern,” said Rahim.
“But with Stephen, he’s creative in and out of the ring. If he throws the 1-2-3, he might throw a right uppercut (for the 4) instead of a straight right hand, so it’s a punch you’re not expecting from a different angle.”
Footwork & Positioning
Because of his fluid footwork, Fulton can box from the outside or fight in close range. Rahim discussed how he helps his fighter hone his footwork in the gym.
“He shadowboxes with the resistance band (around his legs). It helps him judge the distance and how wide he’s keeping his feet. We use the ladder a lot, short little steps. We used it a lot this camp. The resistance band also helps him keep both his feet under him so he’s got good balance.”
Protect Yourself At All Times
“We spar a lot,” said Rahim. “If I see him get hit or make a mistake, I’ll say, ‘Let me see you do that again.’ He’ll do it again and say, ‘OK, I see it.’ Every time, he’ll feel it himself and fix it. Next time he doesn’t make the same mistake.
“A trainer can always tell a fighter something but that don’t mean you can get him to see it. If you can get him to see it on his own, he’ll get the feel for it as he’s making the mistake.”
“ Stephen’s mindset is different. He’s so mentally strong. ” Trainer - Wahid Rahim
Last November, Fulton won a majority decision against previously-unbeaten WBC world champion Brandon Figueroa in a unification match. Fulton displayed good defense to avoid taking many clean punches. He also used his own offense as defense.
“When Stephen pushed Figueroa back, Figueroa would stop punching,” Rahim said, “That’s Figueroa’s Achilles heel. Fulton would stab to the body and get on the inside. He bullied the bully.”
“When Stephen wants to fight and get down and dirty and roll in the mud, then he can fight on the inside,” Rahim said. “When he wants to be tactical and land the missiles on his target, he can snipe ‘em.”
Figueroa is a volume puncher with a swarming style. Fulton’s ability to fight well at any range played a major role.
“We trained for that fight for six months [it was postponed due to Figueroa testing positive for COVID-19]. At first, we trained to box Figueroa,” said Rahim.
“Later I saw Stephen on the inside a lot in sparring. I told him, ‘Don’t stay there. I don’t want you getting hit a lot.’ He told me, ‘I’m gonna have to fight this fight on the inside.’ I’m not gonna go against his judgment, he’s the one in there. So I evaluated it to give him the best game plan to fight inside.
“I think Brandon Figueroa is an amazing fighter. But when I studied him, I noticed he had a flaw: he stops punching if he gets pushed backwards.
“Before we went in the ring, Fulton said his legs were feeling heavy. He boxed (from distance) in the first round and won it. But I saw that I didn’t have the same Stephen Fulton I had in the Leo fight. I had to make a trainer’s adjustment. After that round I told him, ‘If you box, you’re playing defense and you’re using more muscles, more energy, and all he’s doing is walking forward on offense. By the seventh round you’re gonna be dead. If you push him back, he’ll stop punching. Then you get your second wind and you can make it through this fight.’ Once he pushed Figueroa back, it changed the fight.
“In the first round when he boxed Figueroa, he won the round clear. After the 10th I told Stephen, ‘I need you to box him these last two rounds. You gotta dig deep and go somewhere you never went before. He don’t have the energy he had from round one to stay on you.’
“So he boxed those last two rounds, and those last two were the deciding factor on the scorecards. It was me making the trainer’s adjustment, and he listened.”
“Stephen’s mindset is different,” Rahim explained. “He’s so mentally strong. He’ll mentally break a person down. Nobody can teach you to have that. You can be taught skills, but I’ve seen a lot of fighters with great skills be mentally broken in the ring.
“You can’t be taught it, but you can enhance it. Stephen always had that mental toughness but his environment enhanced it. As a kid, he was in the center of a tough environment, and he had to be mentally strong to get through that. He came up in the streets, and everything the streets taught him and seeing all these people in his neighborhood dying…he had to figure out how to change his perspective.
“What he was told was right, what he was told to do, he did the opposite. As a kid, he didn’t get caught up in any dumb things. He mentally beat the streets. It’s almost impossible for a kid to beat that environment.”
For a closer look at Fulton vs Roman, check out our fight night page.
- Fulton vs Roman