Antonio DeMarco has vowed to stand and fight toe to toe with Omar Figueroa Jr. on Saturday. If that’s the case, Figueroa says he’ll be getting exactly what he wants, and just in time for the holidays.
A native of Mexico, DeMarco (31-5-1, 23 KOs) has a come-forward style synonymous with boxers from his homeland. But it’s precisely the style that Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KOs) prefers, which is why the aggressive “Panterita” (Little Panther) is licking his chops in advance their clash at the AT&T Center in San Antonio (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 pm. PT).
“DeMarco’s saying he’s going to bring the war to me, so that’s an early Christmas gift,” says Omar Figueroa Jr., who weighed in Friday at 151 pounds, while DeMarco hit the scales at 149. “He’s a lanky southpaw with a good straight left, but I can fight as a left-hander and neutralize that.”
Like Figueroa, Antonio DeMarco is a former 135-pound champion. Unlike Figueroa, though, DeMarco has hit a bit of a wall lately, with his once-granite chin displaying some cracks.
Since a three-fight winning streak from August 2013 to August 2014, DeMarco has suffered consecutive unanimous-decision losses to Jessie Vargas (November 2014) and Rances Barthelemy, who floored him in the fourth round on June 21 in Las Vegas.
DeMarco, 29, also was stopped in the eighth and ninth rounds by Adrien Broner in November 2012 and the late Edwin Valero in February 2010. And although he earned a unanimous decision over Lanardo Tyner in his most recent victory, he had to rise from a first-round knockdown.
The fact DeMarco has struggled to remain on his feet in recent years is a telling sign to Figueroa.
“He’s lost, been knocked down or been knocked out because he wasn’t the best man that night. I think it’s enough for me to know that he can have another one of those nights,” says Figueroa, who made his 140-pound debut in May with a 12-round unanimous-decision victory over England’s Ricky Burns, another former 135-pound titleholder.
“For me, losing is not even an option. I don’t see myself losing. A knockout would be a bonus, and I’ll obviously be looking to try to bring an early end to his night.”
Figueroa, who will celebrate his 26th birthday Sunday, will have a familiar voice in his corner urging him on, as Omar Figueroa Sr. is training his son for the third consecutive fight since replacing former cornerman Joel Diaz.
In addition to the win over Burns, Figueroa Sr. helped guide his son to a ninth-round stoppage of Daniel Estrada in August 2014. That was Figueroa Jr.’s second and final defense of his 135-pound championship.
Come Saturday, Figueroa Sr. says he expects action similar to what his son experienced during his July 2013 unanimous-decision victory over southpaw Nihito Arakawa of Japan. In that contest, which took place at the AT&T Center, Figueroa dropped the aggressive Arakawa once each in the second and sixth rounds to claim his world title.
Although he finished the fight with a bloody nose and injured hands, Figueroa dominated Arakawa on the stat sheet, outlanding him 480-280, including a 450-266 in power shots.
The one big difference between Arakawa and DeMarco, however, is size: While the 5-foot-8 Arakawa was only a half-inch taller than Figueroa, the 5-foot-10 DeMarco will have a much more tangible height edge. Not that such a thing concerns Figueroa’s father.
“I admire how Arakawa went down and got up, but at the end, he was all bruised up,” Figueroa Sr. says of a bout that ended up being Fight of the Year candidate. “DeMarco’s another tough warrior and a leftie, but knowing how hard Omar hits you, I don’t think DeMarco will able to take that kind of punishment.”
For complete coverage of Figueroa vs DeMarco, make sure to check out our fight page.