Omar Figueroa Jr. had to feel the nerves coursing through him again. It was a welcome greeting, that tingly pinch in his legs and arms. It was his body’s way of telling “El Panterita” he was ready to go—that the 19-month layoff was over and his passion for boxing was fully reignited.
Robert Guerrero was sure to test Figueroa’s resolve, as the former two-division champion was fighting for his own relevance Saturday night after losing four of his last six fights entering their 147-pound battle before 7,492 fans at the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, New York, which was hosting a fight for the first time since Mike Tyson knocked out Steve Zouski in March 1986.
Omar Figueroa Jr., who last fought in December 2015, woke up the echoes of Tyson with bludgeoning uppercuts that eventually chopped down Guerrero five times on his way to notching a third-round TKO.
It marked a successful return for Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs), a former 135-pound world champion, while Guerrero (33-6-1, 18 KOs) was stopped for the first time in his 42-fight professional career.
“As simply as I could put it, I’m finally healthy,” Figueroa said. “We knew [Guerrero] was coming in with something to prove, and he would come out a little more fired up than usual. I wore him down a little bit and I caught him. We practiced the left uppercut. He put up a great effort. My respects to Robert. I felt good.
"We knew that it was going to be tough to accomplish, but I had obviously trained to get the knockout. With my hands finally being healthy, we knew that it was actually possible.”
When asked if fighting at 147 pounds felt good after being reportedly as high as 190 during his downtime, the 5-foot-7½ Figueroa said that it did, “but I want a title at 140.
The 34-year-old Guerrero outworked his younger opponent in the opening round, landing 40 of 93 total punches, but Figueroa stepped up his output in the second. The 27-year-old Weslaco, Texas, native snuck in a right uppercut that stunned Guerrero, then stepped back and landed a short right to the chin.
With his corner imploring him, “Robert keep boxing, go back to boxing,” Guerrero couldn’t escape the onslaught from Figueroa, who landed 88 of 185 total punches (48 percent) in the fight, including 49 of 97 in Round 2.
At 1:54 of the second, Figueroa unleashed a perfect left uppercut that sent “The Ghost” down on both knees. That triggered something in Guerrero, because he came storming back and pinned Figueroa against the ropes. The younger fighter punched his way out, though, and once again had Guerrero in trouble.
From there, neither fighter could get out of the way of each other, but another pulverizing right knocked down Guerrero a second time with 30 seconds left in the round. Guerrero was barely able to stand before Figueroa landed a body shot, putting him down a third time in the round.
Still, referee Ron Lipton let it continue as the bell ended the round, although it appeared Guerrero was out on his feet.
“ We knew that it was going to be tough to accomplish, but I trained to get the knockout. With my hands finally being healthy, we knew that it was possible. ” Omar Figueroa Jr., on gaining a third-round TKO of Robert Guerrero after a 19-month layoff
“After the first knockdown, I knew that the instinct would kick in for him and he'd go all out,” said Figueroa, who landed 81 of 146 power punches (56 percent). “I thought it was going to be over after the first knockdown of the second round, but the ref let it keep going. I haven't fought this way in a long time because I didn't have the power in my hands. I'll always find a way to come out on top, though.”
Whatever he had left, Guerrero let loose in the opening seconds of the third. The lionhearted southpaw backed Figueroa up with big, looping shots, leaving himself open for countering uppercuts. It was a short right that dropped the Gilroy, California, native a fourth time, with 2:15 left in the third. Finally, Guerrero’s gallantry gave way, and a left to the body felled him a fifth time.
That was enough for Lipton to end it at 1:30 of the third.
“I've been working since January, so I'm going to take some time off,” Figueroa said. “Then I'm going to get back into camp to get back to 140 pounds. I want to be back in the ring by the end of the year.”
In televised undercard action, 2012 U.S. Olympian “Sir” Marcus Browne (20-0, 15 KOs) continued his climb toward a possible 175-pound title shot with a second-round TKO of local favorite Seanie Monaghan (28-1, 17 KOs).
Browne, a southpaw, landed a straight left on the forehead that dropped his longtime sparring partner in the opening minute of the fight. Later in the first, Browne hit Monaghan with a shot to the midsection that appeared borderline, but referee Steve Willis called it low, giving the 35-year-old needed time to recover.
Browne, 26, resumed his attack in the second, starting with a right hook that had Monaghan reeling against the ropes. Browne then followed up with a left, a right and then a cascade of shots that left Monaghan defenseless. Willis quickly intervened and called it over at 40 seconds of Round 2.
“It was very tough, [Monaghan] is a guy that I have real love for, but I just had to take care of business and do what I had to do,” Browne said. “We opened things up with the jab. I set up [the knockdown] with my jab. I caught him with a good right hook, and that basically finished the job. That just opened up and I let things flow.”
In a battle of Polish-born heavyweights, Adam Kownacki (16-0, 13 KOs) handed Artur Szpilka (20-3, 15 KOs) his second straight loss in a breakout performance, using a high-volume attack to gain one knockdown and earn a fourth-round TKO.
Also, Jamal James (21-1, 9 KOs) won a 10-round unanimous decision over former title challenger Jo Jo Dan (36-5, 19 KOs) in a high-action 147-pound bout, and 122-pound prospect Brandon Figueroa (13-0, 8 KOs), the younger brother of Omar Figueroa, used a high-volume body attack to earn an eight-round unanimous decision over Fatiou Fassinou (28-7-3, 15 KOs).
For a complete look at Figueroa vs Guerrero, visit our fight page.