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Simply put: Fulton better boxer than Leo

Angelo Leo, right, seen here against Tramaine Williams in August, suffered the first loss of his career on Saturday, when Stephen Fulton Jr. beat him to win the WBO super bantamweight title. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

If Angelo Leo had another gear, an alternate path that might have led to victory, he never found it — never, it seemed, even looked for it.

Perhaps, though, it didn’t matter.

Sometimes, the other guy is just better.

Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, Albuquerque’s Leo lost by lopsided unanimous decision to Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton Jr.

Leo lost not only a fight, but the WBO super bantamweight title he’d won in August. Gone as well is his perfect record. Leo is now 20-1 with nine knockouts.

In the fight’s aftermath, Leo is drawing deserved praise for his heart and for his role in a wildly entertaining fight.

The judges’ scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110, boxing journalist Dan Rafael wrote, “didn’t illustrate how enthralling, violent and competitive the toe-to-toe slugfest was.”

A toe-to-toe slugfest, it was thought before the fight, would have favored Leo. But Fulton (19-0, eight KOs) proved willing and able to step into Leo’s wheelhouse and get the better of the mayhem.

What could Leo have done differently?

Not much, it seemed.

In interviews before the fight, Leo had talked about his adaptability. If Fulton — the boxer — strayed from the expected, Leo would have an answer.

He did not. Fulton, whether inside or from a distance, was simply the better fighter.

The bigger and stronger one as well.

On Friday, the two fighters weighed in within half a pound of each other: 122 pounds for Fulton, 121½ for Leo. Their heights were listed as 5-foot-6 for Leo, 5-6½ for Fulton.

In the ring Saturday, they looked as if they didn’t belong in the same weight class.

Fulton used his superior strength to great advantage, including repeated employment of an arm lock, ignored throughout by referee David Fields, that often made Leo a one-armed fighter. But it was pointed out during the Showtime telecast that, with Fields unwilling to intervene, it was up to Leo to extricate himself. He was unable to do so.

During the rare occasions when the two fighters weren’t pounding away at each other’s midsections, Fulton used his length to land sharp jabs — sometimes, it appeared, tilting close rounds in his favor before the bell sounded.

Regarding the scorecards:

The problem with boxing’s 10-point-must scoring system is not the system itself but how it’s implemented. Traditionally, a decisive round and a razor-close one are scored the same: 10-9. Scoring a round even is frowned on and rarely happens these days.

The Fulton-Leo scorecards are not unfair, but — as Rafael noted — are misleading.

Steve Farhood, the unofficial scorer on the Showtime telecast, scored the fight 117-111 for Fulton but noted that he believed several of the middle rounds could have been scored for either fighter.

The Journal scored the bout 116-112 for Fulton, giving Leo rounds two, four, seven and 10.

Ultimately, though, the outcome was the same regardless: a victory and a title for Fulton.

For Leo, it’s unclear what happens next. He has lost his world title in his first defense, and will suffer the consequences professionally. Yet, at 26, his future remains bright.

There are, certainly, things he can work on and improve before he returns to the ring.

It’s doubtful that anything he might do, though, would enable him to defeat Fulton should they meet again.

The other guy was just better.

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