The unbeaten former world lightweight champion is a new man, mentally and physically, heading into Saturday night’s 140-pound bout versus John Molina Jr. on FOX.
Mexican boxers raised in southern Texas aren’t supposed to be in touch with their feelings.
It was ingrained in Omar Figueroa Jr.’s soul at a young at age to simply plow through whichever physical and mental ailments he encountered. Ignoring the issues that stunted his growth both as a man and as a boxer hurt him.
Never enough to cost him a fight, mind you, but more than enough to keep peace out of his life.
Those days are over.
Figueroa is much more in touch now with what makes him happy. This tough guy’s tough guy couldn’t care less who knows it, either.
The 29-year-old super lightweight won’t apologize for these self-examinations because he is at peace as he prepares to enter the ring Saturday night for what figures to be a “Fight of the Year” candidate against John Molina Jr. The Figueroa-Molina match, Figueroa’s first fight in 19 months, will be part of a “Premier Boxing Champions on FOX” telecast from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“The main thing that I’ve been stressing lately is the whole mental health thing,” Figueroa said. “I think that’s been it – I cut a lot of negativity out from my life and things have been a lot better for me since then. I’m at peace with myself, my past and my life and whatever’s happened in it. And I feel like I’m finally learning how to love myself and how to love life, how to value myself and take care of my body properly.
“It’s something that I was never taught. I guess growing up Mexican, with that machismo and everything that we have, we’re not taught to take care of ourselves as men. It’s, ‘Oh, let the girls do that,’ or whatever. But it’s been something that I’ve considered lately. I’ve taken my mental health and my happiness into account, and it’s done wonders for me.”
Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, didn’t realize how unhappy he had been until the birth of his first daughter, who is now six-years-old. The father of three realized then that he needed to make changes in his life, yet it wasn’t until recently that he seriously began considering therapy.
“When I had my first baby, my first daughter,” Figueroa explained, “that’s when I started realizing that this was much bigger than myself, that I had to make drastic changes because not only did I depend on myself, now I had another mouth to feed. I had been wanting kids since I was in high school, so when I first found out that I was having a child, I was going crazy. I felt I was born to be a dad. I couldn’t wait, but I knew I had to make changes in my life because I knew there was a lot going on inside of me that my whole childhood and everything had accumulated.
“ I want to show why I belong at the top of the sport, why I belong with the names of the greats, ” Unbeaten former world lightweight champion - Omar Figueroa Jr.
“And so that’s where I started, but I didn’t really know how to go about it. Like I said, it’s not really in our culture to deal with stuff like that, or to get into our feelings and blah, blah, blah. So, it was hard to figure that out on my own. But online, I’ve been reading a lot and looking at things and watching videos on this and that, and I’ve kind of learned to go about that. And I feel like I’ve done it in a healthy way.”
Figueroa feels healthier physically as well.
Multiple injuries have limited him to one fight in the three years since he out-pointed Antonio DeMarco in their 12-rounder in December 2015. Elbow and hand troubles have long affected Figueroa, but a dislocated right shoulder suffered during a jet-skiing accident never healed quite right and forced him to withdraw from a fight against Adrien Broner last April on Showtime.
Figueroa also was arrested in the early-morning hours of last February 13 in Indian Wells, California. He was charged with driving under the influence.
Figueroa feels he learned an invaluable lesson that night and since has taken the steps toward addressing his mental health.
Now that his elbow, hands and shoulder are better, too, Figueroa feels he’ll be able to resume his journey toward winning a world title – this time within the 140-pound division.
Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs) demolished former four-division champion Robert Guerrero in his last fight, a third-round technical knockout that was contested at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. His shoulder limited his boxing training during the final month of that camp, though, which made Figueroa realize that he could “easily” get down to 140 pounds if he truly tried.
Now he’s ready to deliver the type of action virtually everyone expects from him and the 36-year-old Molina (30-7, 24 KOs) on Saturday night.
“I want to show why I belong at the top of the sport, why I belong with the names of the greats,” Figueroa said. “Hopefully, this is the road to recovery to get back to where I was before, at one point where I was ready to take on the top. I just want to stay healthy and that’s why I made the changes that I made, so I can remain healthy. It doesn’t matter how much talent I have, how much power, speed, height, whatever. If I’m not healthy, there’s no way I can apply that anyway.”
For more on Omar Figueroa Jr., check out his fighter page.
- Omar Figueroa Jr.