The undefeated super bantamweight titles plans to upset the odds versus WBC counterpart Luis Nery when they square off in their anticipated 122-pound showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
The dirt plumes kicked up from the bottom of Brandon Figueroa’s shoes as he danced around his makeshift dressing room during his pre-fight warm-up, pounding the mitts in the Cowboys Dancehall, in San Antonio, Texas.
The only thing separating Figueroa, then a teenager, and his opponent was a blue tarp hung over a clothesline. The “Heartbreaker” was usually the walkout bout back then, with hardly anyone other than family and friends seated in the near-empty arena. The hanging tarp wasn’t enough to separate Figueroa from hearing his opponent’s people pump up their fighter with, “He’s just a kid, you’re a real man; he doesn’t know what he’s getting into; you’re going to kill him; he’s a babyface.”
A few rounds later, “the kid,” “the babyface,” was standing over their man lying supine on the canvas.
Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs) will be down the hall from WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion Luis Nery in the featured bout this Saturday night live on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing in a Premier Boxing Champions event (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Though, Figueroa has a good idea of what might be said prior to stepping through the ropes against the southpaw Nery (31-0, 24 KOs).
“I’ve heard it all my life,” Figueroa said. “I’ve always made the people that doubted me eat their words. My whole life people have underestimated me, even my dad for a period of time, and I’ve come a long way. I believed in myself more than anyone else.
“I would see this look on my opponent’s face before fights. I could see their smirk and their over confidence. They thought it would be an easy fight. They looked down on me, and there were times I remember when I was coming up in fights at the Cowboy Dancehall when I actually would hear what my opponent’s people were saying about me.
“Now I’m days away from the biggest fight of my life, fighting for a title on SHOWTIME.”
Figueroa, who’s 24, still gets carded at bars. He knows it’s a natural human instinct why opponents think they can walk through his baby-blue eyes and sharp looks.
The “Heartbreaker” has an answer: One punch to the ribs.
“I really do like it when people think that way,” Figueroa said. “That always changes when I hit them. I see their facial expressions change right away. They go from being super overconfident to running away from me. I love it.”
They go from thinking that they’re scaring Figueroa to being scared.
That’s what he’s looking to do against Nery.
“On paper, Nery is the toughest guy I’ve ever fought, and I know I’m the one everyone is looking at as the underdog and he’s the A-side, considering he has the belt,” Figueroa said. “Nery is coming up to fight me. I’m the natural 122-pounder and I guess this is a new world for me, being considered the underdog.
“The pressure is on him. My mission is training hard and fighting hard, that’s what I do. I know Nery is a crafty lefty, and he likes throwing that overhand left a lot. I can box and I can brawl, and I can box lefty or righty, and he’s a great fighter. But I won’t respect him at all once that bell rings.
“ I hit him, he’s going to know I’m no joke ” Undefeated WBA World Super Bantamweight Champion - Brandon Figueroa
“I respect him as a fighter. But once the bell rings, I’m going to go after him and I can’t give him too much respect. You can’t give anyone respect inside the ring in the sport of boxing. He won’t be able to deal with my pressure.”
Figueroa has never been knocked down—ever. Not as an amateur, not even in sparring.
He takes great pride in that. Nery, however, has stopped 11 of his last 12 opponents, a streak that was broken when Nery captured the vacant WBC junior featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Aaron Alameda last September.
“Nery’s problem against me is that he’s coming up to 122 and I’m a full 122 pounds,” Figueroa said. “I know there’s only a four-pound difference between bantamweight and junior featherweight, but at this weight, that’s a lot.
“I’m going to be the bigger man. He’s going to have to deal with my power.”
Omar Figueroa Sr., Brandon’s father and trainer, made it rough for his younger son growing up. Brandon had to prove himself to his father. If Brandon was going to commit to boxing, it had to be a 100-percent, not do it just to appease his father.
Omar Sr. purposely made things difficult early on for Brandon. He refused to train Brandon, paying little attention to him when he first started. Omar bought in when Brandon was around 8 years old. Omar emphasized that boxing was a lifestyle.
“Brandon trained himself and went to this tournament, and he proved me wrong and won it,” Omar Sr. recalled. “Brandon has the blue eyes, he was skinny (laughs), kind of wimpy. I would keep him on the side, but in sparring, Brandon started hurting guys with his body shots.
“I gradually started paying attention. Now, look where he is. But Brandon overcame a lot of doubts to get here. Brandon is 24 and looks like he’s 16. When he was 18, he looked like he was 12. So, early on in his career, Brandon did face a lot of doubt. Everyone thought that they were fighting a little kid.
“Nery thinks he’s going to walk through Brandon, like everyone else used to think. I know my son. I’m proud of my son. I know what my son can do. Brandon has an edge. He might not show it, but it’s there. This may be a 50-50 fight, but Brandon can hurt Nery to the body, and he’s never been dropped.
“In a way, my son is being underestimated. He’s earned this position. People can’t see a pretty guy being a tough guy. Okay, he may be a pretty boy, but he has some big balls.”
Omar says Brandon’s body attack will make the difference. Nery may look at Brandon with the same sneer every other opponent he’s faced had.
But history has been on Brandon’s side.
“I hit him, he’s going to know I’m no joke,” Brandon said. “I hope he thinks he’s going to walk through me. I’ve proven people wrong before.”
No one will doubt that.
For a closer look at Brandon Figueroa, check out his fighter page.