Many boxers who decide to jump up in weight after a lengthy stint at a lower division do so cautiously—say with a couple of low-risk fights against no-name opponents. Omar Figueroa Jr. has opted for the exact opposite approach.
After making three successful defenses of his 135-pound championship from July 2013 to August 2014, Figueroa made the leap to 140 pounds earlier this year. But instead of matching up against a lesser fighter, the unbeaten 25-year-old challenged Ricky Burns, himself a former 135-pound titleholder.
The reward proved worth the risk, as Figueroa won the action-packed, 12-round bout by unanimous decision.
Now Omar Figueroa Jr. (25-0-1, 18 KOs) will attempt to make it 2-for-2 against former 135-pound champs when he battles Antonio DeMarco (31-5, 23 KOs) on December 12 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio in a bout airing live in prime time on NBC (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
The 140-pound contest headlines a loaded Premier Boxing Champions card that also will feature a pair of 10-round heavyweight bouts: Dominic Breazeale (16-0, 14 KOs) will take on Charles Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs) in a clash of unbeatens, while title contender Chris Arreola (36-4-1) will square off against Travis Kauffman (30-1, 22 KOs).
In his 140-pound debut on May 9 in Hidalgo, Texas—just a 30-minute drive from his lifelong hometown of Weslaco, Texas—the always hard-charging Figueroa survived an epic brawl against Burns, walking away with a comfortable decision.
That contest ended a nine-month layoff for Figueroa, who capped his career at 135 with a ninth-round knockout of Daniel Estrada in August 2014. Figueroa has won 15 consecutive fights since an eight-round split draw against Arturo Quintero in November 2010—the only time in his pro career that he hasn’t had his hand raised in victory.
“I’m excited to once again be fighting in my home state of Texas, in front of my fans who know what to expect from me,” Figueroa said. “It’s going to be exciting. I will slowly break down DeMarco and give the fans and myself a win.”
Fighting an unbeaten opponent is nothing new for DeMarco, whose last two bouts were against Jessie Vargas (then 25-0) in China in November 2014 and versus Rances Barthelemy (then 22-0) in Las Vegas on June 21.
The 29-year-old Mexican southpaw dropped both fights by unanimous decision, but prior to that, he had scored three consecutive victories in his home country—part of an 8-1 run from July 2010 to August 2014.
Much like Figueroa, DeMarco is a come-forward boxer who likes to exchange in the middle of the ring. “This will be a very tough fight and will most likely be a war because of our fighting styles,” DeMarco said. “I will do everything I can to give a great show and a great fight.”
Prior to Figueroa-DeMarco, Breazeale and Martin will slug it out in a heavyweight clash that could have championship implications down the road.
For the 6-foot-7 Breazeale, this will be his fourth fight since March and his fifth in 366 days. The 30-year-old Southern California native won a unanimous decision over Fred Kassi on September 26 in Birmingham, Alabama.
That result, which came on the undercard of heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s TKO victory over Johann Duhaupas, snapped Breazeale’s five-fight knockout streak.
Martin was featured on the same card, with the 6-foot-5 southpaw scoring a third-round TKO over Vicente Sandez. It was the eighth consecutive knockout victory for the 29-year-old St. Louis native, who has been taken beyond four rounds just once during this stretch.
“I know Dominic very well and have a lot of respect for him, so I know it’s going to be a tough fight,” says Martin, who now resides in Carson, California, less than 30 miles from Breazeale’s home in Alhambra. “This fight is about two of the best young heavyweights in the world fighting each other. I won’t let anything stand in my way of becoming heavyweight champion.”
Said Breazeale: “Charles Martin has nowhere near the experience I have—it’s like night and day. I do everything better than him and am in much better condition. I’m looking to end 2015 with a bang.”
Arreola, 34, battled Fred Kassi to a majority draw in El Paso, Texas, in July in his last bout. The two-time title challenger said he expects to put on a show against the 30-year-old Kauffman, who won his last fight in September with a second-round KO of Epifanio Mendoza in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I’ve known Kauffman for a long time and very well, but once the bell rings, it’s time to go to work,” Arreola said. “I’m a beast when I’m in great shape and that’s what I will be for this fight. I haven’t fought in San Antonio, but I look forward to fighting in front of the loyal Mexican-American boxing fans.”