Brandon Figueroa is breaking and taking hearts

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Unbeaten 122-pound contender may be nicknamed “Heartbreaker,” but his non-stop body assault is taking the heart away from his opponents too.

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Figueroa vs Escandon - Watch Video Highlights | September 30, 2018

Brandon Figueroa was only eight-years-old when a group of smitten girls — dazzled by his blue eyes — inadvertently gave the young boxer his nickname.

Figueroa would travel with his older brother, Omar Figueroa Jr., and father, Omar Sr., to Mexico for amateur boxing competitions at that time. The girls, maybe a dozen of them, would see Brandon and begin shouting, “Rompecorazones! Rompecorazones!” which is Spanish for “Heartbreaker.”

Even today, Figueroa’s good looks might be the first thing you notice about the now 22-year-old from the small town of Weslaco on the southern-most tip of Texas. Two minutes into any of his fights, however, is enough to see that he’s all fighter once he steps through the ropes.

Figueroa (17-0, 12 knockouts) isn’t considered to be as gifted as his brother, but he compensates for any deficiency with unusual conditioning, body shots from hell and sheer guts.

Moises Flores will get a taste of all that when he meets Figueroa in a 10-round featherweight bout that serves as the co-feature of a PBC on FS1 card (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) on Sunday, January 13 at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

“That kid has a lot of heart,” said trainer Joel Diaz, who worked Figueroa’s corner alongside Omar Sr. several times. “He might not have the natural talent of some kids but he’s very durable, very disciplined and very determined. And he packs a punch.

“I really believe he can beat a guy with a lot of talent because of his work ethic.”

The fact Figueroa became a professional boxer at all might’ve been surprising not long before he adopted his moniker.

One, he didn’t seem to have the disposition. The self-described “calm, collected person” can remember getting into a street fight only once as a child. He was an honor student, not a roughneck.

Two, Omar Sr., a street fighter turned self-taught trainer, was focused on guiding Omar Jr. — seven years older than Brandon — through the amateurs when the younger son decided to get serious about boxing. He had no time for a second pupil.

And, three, Dad didn’t believe that Brandon had the makings of a boxer.

“Brandon was like 6, 7 years old when he told me, ‘Dad, I want to box.’ I said, ‘No. You’re too skinny, too wimpy and too good looking to be fighting,’” Omar Sr. said. “You know what? That kid proved me wrong.”

Indeed, he did. Brandon continued to train as a boy, largely by himself. He’d observe his brother’s routine and try to copy it, perhaps in part to attract the attention of his father. It worked.

Omar Sr. noticed during intermittent sparring sessions that Brandon was able to go numerous rounds without tiring and was hurting his sparring partners to the body.

“I suddenly realized, ‘I don’t have one great boxer on my hands; I have two,’” Omar Sr. said.

Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure being Omar’s brother. We’ll always have each other’s backs because we know this is not an easy road. We do compete against each other in a way — even now, we still do — but I’m making my own way. I’m making a name for myself. Unbeaten 122-pound contender Brandon Figueroa

The younger Figueroa trained regularly but didn’t fight as often as he would’ve liked. He believes he had a record of 36-12 as an amateur, which allowed him to learn enough nuts and bolts to turn pro at 18.

He powered through his first 16 opponents despite a shoulder injury that had nagged him since he was a teenager and wasn’t corrected until this past summer. Then he received the first big break of his career.

Figueroa was scheduled to fight former WBA “interim” titleholder Oscar Escandon in a junior featherweight bout — his first 10-rounder — on the Victor Ortiz-John Molina Jr. undercard on September 30 Ontario, California when the Ortiz-Molina fight fell out. That bumped Figueroa-Escandon to the main event, which was televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

The young Texan took advantage of the opportunity, surviving a bad cut and stubborn resistance to stop his unusually short — 5 feet, 1½ inches — opponent in the final round.

“I have to admit I was excited when I heard I was in the main event,” said Figueroa, who is 5-8. “I knew I was more than ready to take the opportunity and shine. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t spar for that fight because of an injured knuckle on my left hand. He was really short and aggressive, which made it difficult to find my distance. And the cut was a problem for a few rounds.

“Once I knew my conditioning was good, though, I just went back to my game plan and worked and worked and worked.”

Figueroa is close to his first title shot even though he has fought only 17 times as a professional. He’s ranked by both the WBA and IBF as a 122-pounder, but the next step is to get past Flores (25-1, 17 KOs), no easy task. The 32-year-old Mexican, perhaps best known for being knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux after the bell to end the first round, is a tall, awkward boxer-puncher with big-fight experience. He’s coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Daniel Roman this past June.

Figueroa’s game plan will look familiar: Keep the pressure on Flores and break him down with body blows.

If he’s successful, bigger things await. He almost certainly will face a next-level opponent and could fight for a title before the end of the year. And comparisons to his older brother, a former lightweight titleholder who returns to the ring against John Molina Jr. next month, will intensify.

And that’s OK with Brandon.

“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure being Omar’s brother,” he said. “I’m more excited when he fights than when I fight. I support him to the max and he supports me. We’ll always have each other’s backs because we know this is not an easy road.

“We do compete against each other in a way — even now, we still do — but I’m making my own way. I’m making a name for myself.”

Indeed, Brandon has made it clear that he is more than just a pretty face.

For a closer look at Brandon Figueroa, check out his fighter page.

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