The hard-hitting former champion has made some changes to his style, but still wants the KO when he battles Abel Ramos in a welterweight showdown Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.
Omar Figueroa Jr. was saying all the right things.
Regarding his training camp for his bout with Abel Ramos on Saturday?
One of the best of his career.
“We crushed it,” Figueroa said.
And his level of fitness, his mental health, his physical wellbeing?
“I’ve dedicated myself 110%,” said Figueroa, who has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his career. “I feel great.”
But when the topic turned to how he would actually perform in the ring against Ramos on the undercard of Andy Ruiz Jr.-Chris Arreola on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), Figueroa suddenly dispensed with the hyperbole and seemed at a loss for words.
“Great question,” he said over the phone with a laugh last month, before admitting he’s really not sure what will happen in his first bout since a disappointing loss to Yordenis Ugás nearly two years ago, the first time he didn't leave the ring with his arm raised in victory.
“I really don’t know what to expect from myself,” Figueroa acknowledged.
It was a surprising yet not totally unexpected admission from Figueroa, given his ups and downs, his confessional interviewing style, his injury-plagued career, and the long layoff after his first loss.
Since turning pro as a teenager, Figueroa, 31, has rarely taken a step backward in the ring or in his career, rising quickly and winning a world title at just 23, amassing a large following with his face-first, all-action style, seemingly teetering on the brink of stardom, but never fully crossing the threshold.
That punishing in-ring technique and the fast success came with a price, however, both emotionally and physically, and Figueroa acknowledged that he and his trainer Joel Diaz spent much of this camp retooling his kamikaze approach with the goal of being more elusive and cagey.
Humble by the shock of his first loss, Figueroa (30-1-1, 19 knockouts) has had to do something he rarely has done in the ring — reassess his line of attack and take a step back, and he’s anxious to see what the results will bring.
“That’s where it’s exciting for us because we’re trying new things, mainly because my body is not the same that it used to be ten years ago,” he said. “I can’t just go off and throw 900 punches like I did a decade ago. We’re changing things up, and we’re so excited to see how it all comes together.”
But don’t expect Figueroa to suddenly morph into Willie Pep, trying to win rounds without throwing a punch, as Pep is rumored to have done in his 1946 bout with Jackie Graves.
“Oh no, I’m still looking to knock people out,” he said. “I’m just going about it in a different way, just being smarter about it.”
Figueroa will get to display that more nuanced strategy on a big stage: His scheduled 12-round welterweight bout with Ramos is penciled in as the co-feature to Ruiz’s heavyweight return against former world title challenger Arreola at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California on Fox Sports PBC Pay-Per-View.
The card will also feature super welterweight contender Sebastian Fundora taking on veteran Jorge Cota and rising welterweight Jesús Ramos Jr., the nephew of Abel Ramos, squaring off against former U.S. Olympian Javier Molina.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Figueroa, who has fought at Dignity Health Sports Park, formerly the Home Depot Center and StubHub Center throughout his career. While he tasted success, Figueroa conceded that over the years he indulged in activities that weren’t exactly good for his health and a long career.
“ know that no one is going to beat me. ” Former Lightweight World Champion - Omar Figueroa Jr.
Figueroa raced his BMW S1000RR motorcycle too fast and partied excessively, culminating in a DUI arrest back in 2018, barely three months before he was scheduled to take on Adrien Broner in a bout he ultimately withdrew from because of injury. “I did some crazy things in life,” he told the Palm Springs Desert Run in 2019 of his burn-the-candle-at-both-ends lifestyle.
When he lost for the first time in July 2019 to Ugas on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman, he described the experience as hitting "rock bottom." Figueroa suffered a first-round knockdown and absorbed hellacious shots on his way to a wide decision loss.
“Losing sucks, man,” he said over the phone. “Not having your arm raised at the end of the night when you’re so used to having that (puts) doubt in your mind. That was the worst part about it — knowing that the possibility really existed that I can lose, because never in my life had it ever crossed my mind, ever.”
While it stung, the loss had several positive consequences: It made him reconsider his future at 147 pounds, which he calls a “pit stop.” He expects to move down to junior welterweight following the bout with Ramos.
It also made him rededicate himself to his physical conditioning since he believes he “beat himself” against Ugas by not arriving in top shape due to physical issues he says limited his effectiveness in camp. “I know he didn’t beat me because he’s better than me,” he said.
This time around, Figueroa arrived in camp for this fight just seven pounds above the welterweight limit, a sign of his newfound commitment to his fitness and his career, he said. “It all came down to me just manning up and facing the stuff I had to face,” he said, “and ever since then life’s become a lot easier."
Figueroa also was motivated by the presence of his younger brother in camp with him. The two trained together for the first time, with Brandon Figueroa, a junior featherweight titleholder, preparing for his title defense against Luis Nery on May 15.
While Omar was viewed as the more talented fighter growing up, Brandon, 24, is now stepping out of his brother's shadow, forged by a lunch-pail work ethic that has led to his own success. Omar admits to marveling at his brother’s discipline and self-control.
"I don’t care if he’s better than me," Omar said. "My brother is unwavering. When he sets his mind to something, he’s going to get it done. And that’s something I’ve always admired about him.”
Despite the praise, their relationship is filled with good-natured trash talking, and if Omar wins impressively on Saturday, it’s easy to envision Omar playfully challenging his brother again for family supremacy in the squared circle.
After all, the qualities he now appreciates in his little brother are the same ones he’s taken on to recapture his own success.
Speaking of his overall attitude toward his bout with Ramos (26-4-2, 20 knockouts), Omar left no doubt that, while he may be unsure of how he will look with a newly repaired style, he expects the night to end in victory.
“I have the utmost confidence in myself,” he said. "I know the kind of work I put in. I know that no one is going to beat me.”
For a closer look at Omar Figueroa Jr., check out his fighter page.