Former world champion Omar Figueroa Jr. has been out of the ring for nearly 19 months—but he’s now ready to return with his usual aggressive, all-out approach.
It’s easy to forget that at just 27 years old, Figueroa has already racked up a 26-0-1 record with 18 knockouts, and that he was a 135-pound world titleholder less than three years ago.
But injuries and the overall need for a break from the sport have kept the Weslaco, Texas, native out of the spotlight. Now healthy and again fully focused, though, Omar Figueroa Jr. is ready to get back in action for the first time since December 2015.
His return to the ring will come July 15 against former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs) in a 10-round prime-time showdown at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
While his fight with Guerrero is a 147-pound contest, Figueroa ultimately plans on resuming his pursuit for another world championship at 140 pounds. Before he can continue forward, though, he must pass the stiff test awaiting him in his return.
Figueroa recently took a break from training in Indio, California, to discuss his ring hiatus, what he missed most about boxing and the possibility of returning to college once he’s done fighting.
When most guys are out of the ring for a year and a half, the idea is to come back with a bit of a tune-up fight. Why return against such a tough opponent?
I think it’s a good opportunity for me to shine. That’s what I’m taking it as. If I do win, it’s a good opportunity for me to show what I’m capable of against an opponent who’s been in the ring with literally the best of the best.
Robert Guerrero is a guy who is trying to prove in the latter stages of his career that he still has something left in the tank. What are you trying to prove on July 15 after everything you’ve gone through in the last couple of years?
I’m just trying to be healthy for a damn fight. That’s really all I care about. I’m trying to be as close to 100 percent as possible. If everything lines up and I am 100 percent healthy, everything else will take care of itself.
What do you think has been the most common misconception of you as a boxer?
That I’m just a dumb, bum-rushing fighter. That’s what people think I do, but they have no idea.
What have you been up to during your time away from the ring?
Being an average Joe and family man. That’s it, really. Hanging out with my family, my kids, going out, eating, traveling, just stuff normal people do.
It suited me for a few months, then it was like, “All right, I’ve got to do something.” My injuries were still lingering, so I knew I wasn’t ready yet, but I knew when the time came, I would know. That time came in January. I just felt ready to get back in it and get back into the mix of things.
What did you miss most about life as an active fighter?
Being busy. It’s only a few hours a day that you train, but mentally, it takes up every moment of your day. You’re worried about a fight, worrying about another guy who is training to beat you up. I had that void.
I wasn’t worried about a fight, about weight, about injuries, about an opponent, and that space was just there. That’s what I missed the most—the adrenaline you get when you think, “Oh crap, three or four weeks from now I’ll be in the ring with another guy who is world caliber and is there to kick my ass.”
“ I missed ... the adrenaline you get when you think, “Oh crap, three or four weeks from now I’ll be in the ring with another guy who is world caliber and is there to kick my ass.” ” Former 135-pound world champion Omar Figueroa Jr., on his hiatus from boxing
Did living a “normal” life open your eyes to what you do or don’t want to do once your boxing career is finished?
I already knew I wouldn’t be just a bum at home, playing video games all day. But I did try my hand at several things, and I think I kind of know what I want to do—being an entrepreneur of some sort, going into real estate. Where I’m from back home in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s growing a lot. The opportunities are there.
I know you’re trying not to look past this fight, but who are some potential opponents you’ll be eyeing if you win on July 15?
I honestly haven’t kept up with the game much. Terence Crawford, Adrien Broner, those are the ones that have been brought up to me. I know my Mexican fans want me to get in the ring with Broner, so that would be a good fight. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t happened, Mikey Garcia is getting the opportunity now, so best of luck to him.
Boxing is in a great spot right now, there are a lot of big-name fighters out there. I’d love to get in there and mix it up with any of them.
Instead of training back home in Texas, you’re in California working with trainer Joel Diaz. What’s been the advantage of that?
I feel like training camp gives me this sort of freedom, because I don’t worry about anything other than training, dieting and training. I feel kind of bad saying this, but my kids and my family are back home, so I’m not really having to worry about them. All I have to worry about is me, and making sure I’m 100 percent for this fight.
Back home, there are a lot of things that distract me. That’s why I like coming here. I’m more secluded and can focus more on what I have to do.
What’s the worst part of training in California?
Being away from my kids and my family. I don’t think you can ever get used to it. It’s just something you have to learn to live with.
How having you been occupying your downtime during training camp?
Video games and bowling. We all like to play FIFA, my cousin and my brothers. I have over 2 terabytes of games saved in my Xbox, so we kind of go nuts with all of them.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
... probably trying my hand at baseball. If not that, I would have gone to school for a construction science degree and started my own contracting firm.
You went to Texas A&M on a full academic scholarship before deciding to focus full time on your boxing career. Any thoughts on potentially going back to College Station and finishing up at some point?
Yes. The dean of Hispanic studies has actually asked me to go back and major in Hispanic studies, and she says I can double major, get a degree in construction science, too. I’ve told her that I don’t really have the time right now, but if they give me my full ride again, I might consider it. She laughed, but it is definitely something on my mind.
Many people have been in my position before, leaving college to pursue their dreams. They go back to get their degree to set an example for their kids. It might be something I do one day, just to say I did it.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero.