There’s a new Figueroa in town — Brandon gets his chance in title fight

Forty-eight hours before fight night isn’t the time for introspection.

Brandon Figueroa has a major championship to win. On Saturday night in Carson, California (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET), the 24-year-old Figueroa will face Luis Nery at Dignity Health Sports Park in a battle of undefeated junior featherweight fighters vying for Nery’s WBC belt.

Figueroa hasn’t put much thought into what it means for his boxing-centric family. Two weeks ago, Brandon’s brother, Omar Figueroa, 31, suffered a sixth-round TKO loss at the same venue Brandon is about to step into.

There once was a time when Omar had been the more heralded Figueroa brother — both in south Texas, where they’re from, and in boxing’s greater landscape. That time feels especially distant now.

The last six years have been a stark contrast for the two Figueroas from Weslaco, Texas, a town nestled in the southern tip of the state known as the Rio Grande Valley.

When Omar turned pro in 2008, he stormed through The Valley and eventually became the WBC lightweight champion by 2014. But starting in 2015, things started to turn for the seven-year-older brother.

In 2015, Omar (28-2-1, 19 KOs) moved up to junior welterweight and squeaked out a decision against Antonio DeMarco. Since that bout, the elder Figueroa has fought just four times as he’s battled injuries, including hand problems that hampered him throughout his career.

“If your body’s not 100%, it’s just unmotivating for him to continue the sport that requires a lot, especially your hands, the tools that you need to defend yourself to fight to give these amazing fights,” Brandon Figueroa told ESPN about his brother.

Brandon, like Omar, is known for a fan-friendly style that requires a heavy physical toll. And over that same six-year stretch, Brandon (21-0, 16 KOs) has turned into a bona fide contender. He’s currently ranked fifth in ESPN’s junior featherweight rankings and holds the WBA “regular” belt.

Brandon has become a star attraction in The Valley. In one of his last fights before COVID-19 became a pandemic, he faced Javier Chacon on a major network telecast at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg, Texas, and stopped him.

“It was amazing,” Brandon said. “I feel like that’s what every city needs. Every city wants someone to represent them. I feel like me and my older brother represent them really well. We’re the fighting Figueroas.”

If the younger brother can beat Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) this weekend, Brandon could be set up for a big 2021. The winner of Nery-Figueroa will face Stephen Fulton, who holds the WBO belt in the division.

Nery will easily be Figueroa’s toughest fight to date, even though the Mexican from Tijuana is coming off a lackluster victory against Aaron Alameda.

“Everything is on the line,” Nery said in the pre-fight press conference. “I just have to prove what I’m capable of inside the ring. I don’t care about anything else but that.”

Brandon said the training camp for this fight with his father and trainer, Omar Sr., has been one of the best of his career. He feels like he’s at 110%, which is what he said the sport requires for fighters with an all-out style like his.

For years, Brandon watched from ringside as Omar reached some of boxing’s biggest heights. Now the younger Figueroa has the opportunity to do the same thing as he carves out a path of his own.

“It’s no surprise that I’m still around,” Brandon told ESPN. “I told my dad I’m going to be a world champion and I want to keep racking up these belts and keep making sure that I can win these titles, and that’s what I’m doing now.”

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