Lipinets drops, stops, retires Figueroa in Florida

Coming in on five days’ notice, you would expect former world champion Sergey Lipinets to not be at his best, but that was clearly not the case. Lipinets dropped and punished former world champion Omar “Panterita” Figueroa Jr. for eight rounds, causing Figueroa’s father and trainer Omar Sr. to stop the fight before the start of the ninth round in a scheduled 12-round WBC Super Lightweight title eliminator headlining live on SHOWTIME Saturday, August 20 from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. in a Premier Boxing Champions Event.

A disappointed Figueroa announced his retirement following the fight, which based on his performance Saturday night, might be a good thing.

Lipinets dropped Figueroa (28-3-1, 19 KOs) with a short, compact counter right hand with a minute left in the second round. Figueroa rose on shaky legs and Lipinets (17-2-1, 13 KOs) moved in and inflicted more punishment, round after round until the bout was stopped. Lipinets was initially penciled in to perform on the non-televised portion of the undercard but was shifted to the main event when former four-time champion Adrien Broner withdrew from the matchup with Figueroa, citing mental health issues.

Photos: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

“I had a good fighter in front of me,” Lipinets said in the ring afterward. “My hat’s off to Omar for being a warrior. The punch that rocked Omar is the punch that my trainer and I have been working on for a long time. He came at me, and it was the perfect time to use it. I was too focused on protecting myself. I was concerned about him answering my punches, but it was not my job to stop the fight. 140 is my weight. I came back. I’m back.”

Lipinets held Figueroa to just 44 landed punches over eight rounds while landing 172 shots and 46.7% of his power punches on his way to the 8th round TKO.

Once an aggressive, punishing fighter who overwhelmed his opponents with pressure, Figueroa suffered his third straight loss after dropping a decision to Yordenis Ugas in 2019 and suffering a KO loss to Abel Ramos in May 2021. Figueroa fought valiantly, even stunning Lipinets with a right hand midway through the sixth, but it was otherwise a resounding performance from Lipinets, who stamped his name as a player in the suddenly crowded super lightweight division.

Lipinets hadn’t fought in 16 months since a sixth-round knockout loss to uber-talented welterweight Jaron Ennis, but the change in weight and opponent served him well.

In the run-up to Saturday’s fight, Figueroa emerged as an eloquent spokesperson for people struggling with mental health issues after he was diagnosed with his own set of mental health concerns. In the ring afterward, Figueroa reflected on his career, on the limitations of his athletic abilities and on the birth of his daughter earlier in the day in announcing his retirement.

“I’m happy that I got to enjoy this last camp. I had a great time,” he said. “For everyone out there going through a tough time or in a dark place, I want to say, ‘don’t you ever give up. Keep up the fight.’”

Undercard:

-In an all-action affair, Alberto Puello and Batyr Akhmedov produced one of the better and compelling fights of 2022, but it was Puello who made history for his country, becoming the first Dominican fighter to ever win a title at 140 pounds by claiming the vacant WBA Super Lightweight World Championship in the co-main event by split decision. The judges Benoit Roussel and Mark Streisand both scored the bout 117-111 for Puello, while Lisa Giampa awarded Akhmedov’s aggression with a scorecard of 115-113.

Puello (21-0, 10 KOs) was able to handle the constant pressure of Akhmedov, who came up short for the second title fight of his career after he lost a decision to Mario Barrios in 2019. Puello was able to fight well off the ropes and answer the advances of Akhmedov (9-2, 8 KOs) with stinging combinations. Puello joined his countrymen Hector Garcia, who dethroned Roger Gutierrez for a 130-pound championship earlier in the evening, to produce arguably the greatest day in the history of Dominican boxing with two title winners. The two are good friends, both sharing the hometown of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic.

Puello was the busier fighter, out-throwing his opponent by a margin of 825 to 764, but Akhmedov out-landed him 207-191 and had a 198-168 edge in power punches landed.

“This was the hardest fight of my life, but the one I prepared the most for,” Puello said in the ring. “I do feel a lot of emotions, and two Dominicans were crowned champions on the same night. This win means a lot to me. This is a big thing for us Dominicans because my friend Hector Garcia and I are bringing two titles back home. My hometown, San Juan de la Maguana has already started the party and they are waiting for Garcia and I to come back and join them.”

Garcia wins again:

-Earlier in the evening, Hector Garcia proved that his dominant win against Chris Colbert in February wasn’t a fluke.

Garcia, a former Olympian from the Dominican Republic, dictated the action and survived a late rally to wrest the WBA Super Featherweight World Championship from Roger Gutierrez via a unanimous decision by scores of 117-111, 117-111 and 118-110 from Alexander Levin, Michael Ross and Fred Fluty to remain undefeated at 16-0 with 10 KOs.

“It means a lot to me to win this title,” Garcia said. “I dedicate it to my people, the entire Dominican Republic and my town, San Juan de la Maguana. In the pros, nobody knew me. But in the amateurs, people knew my name. I went to the Olympics – it was my dream. I had a good run. [Gutierrez] was looking for the right punch to take me down, but I was able to dominate, dictate the pace of the fight and get the win.”

After beating the previously undefeated Colbert as a late replacement on two-weeks-notice on February 26 when Gutierrez withdrew because of COVID, a focused and strategic Garcia kept Gutierrez on his back foot for most of the fight as he fed the titleholder a steady diet of up-jabs and hard lefts to rack up the first nine rounds on all three scorecards.

But Gutierrez, his hair tinted green and his left ear cut and bloody, stormed back in the later rounds, winning the final three frames on two of the judges’ scorecards as the southpaw Garcia appeared to tire and was squaring himself up. Gutierrez (26-4-1, 20 KOs) pushed Garcia back with right hands, his energy and punch-output surging. He appeared to hurt Garcia in the 11th round with a right as Garcia sagged against the ropes, but Garcia answered with lefts and rights of his own to blunt the rally.

Garcia out-landed Gutierrez 156-116 in total punches and landed 35% of his power punches.

Lee overcomes adversity:

-In the telecast opener, the knockout artist Brandun Lee dealt with serious adversity for the first time in his career when he was dropped hard by a right hand in the third round. After rising and clearing the cobwebs, Lee relied on his boxing skills and savvy to capture his second straight 10-round decision against the tougher than expected Will Madera at a super lightweight bout waged at 143 pounds.

Despite the knockdown, Lee was otherwise dominant, winning by scores of 98-91 from the trio of judges Daniel Fitzgerald, Lisa Giampa and Mark Streisand to improve to 26-0 with 22 knockouts. Lee blamed overconfidence on getting caught in the third.

“I think I went in there a little too careless,” Lee said. “I told myself this guy has nothing to give me, but boy was I wrong. I lost focus and overlooked him for that split second. I was cautious in the first couple rounds, the first three until I got hit. I need to keep my left hand up and remain on my toes at all times. I’m not fighting tomato cans anymore, the dude was like No. 17 in the U.S. and has some experience. You can’t knock everyone out. I had to change the game plan. I went from moving forward to boxing. I got hit with a clean shot, but I kept on going. I recovered. Like I said before, death before dishonor.”

After bloodying Madera’s eye in the second round with a dagger of a right hand and left uppercut, the first time that Madera (17-2-3, 10 KOs) had ever been cut, Lee was caught by a picture-perfect counter overhand right that landed squarely on Lee’s chin, dropping the 23-year-old hard with around 20 seconds remaining in the third round, the first time in Lee’s career he touched the canvas. Lee of La Quinta, Calif. out-landed Madera 168-127 in total punches and threw 431 jabs to survive the scare and move on in his promising career.

Magsayo-Vargas, Figueroa-Castro, Martin-Nunez set for July 9 in San Antonio

WBC Featherweight World Champion Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo will take on former world champion Rey Vargas in a battle of unbeatens that headlines action live on SHOWTIME Saturday, July 9 from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and will feature hard-hitting former world champion Brandon “The Heartbreaker” Figueroa taking on Carlos Castro in a WBC Featherweight Title Eliminator in the co-main event, plus the Derrick James-trained, unbeaten lightweight contender Frank Martin battles Panama’s power-punching Ricardo Núñez in the 10-round telecast opener.

Additional coverage will include a pair of bouts streamed live on the SHOWTIME SPORTS YouTube channel  beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The action will see unbeaten welterweight contender Rashidi Ellis facing Argentine Olympian Alberto Palmetta in a 10-round duel, plus San Antonio’s own Ramon Cardenas battling Venezuela’s Michell Banquez in a 10-round bantamweight attraction.

The Filipino sensation Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) fights out of Pasig City, Metro Manila by way of Los Angeles, Calif., and became the latest champion from the boxing-rich nation in January when he outpointed longtime champion Gary Russell Jr. to capture the 126-pound title on SHOWTIME. The 26-year-old earned the opportunity by knocking out former champion Julio Ceja in the 10th round of a fight he trailed on the scorecards in August 2021. Magsayo is trained by Freddie Roach in Southern California and owns 12-round decision victories over Shoto Hayashi and Ramiro Robles, in addition to a sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Chris Avalos.

“I am very thankful to my team for giving me the opportunity to defend my title in San Antonio,” said Magsayo. “I’m excited to be fighting in the same venue where my idol Manny Pacquiao fought Marco Antonio Barrera. That was the first fight I ever saw and the reason I started boxing. We are preparing for a strong Mexican fighter in Rey Vargas. Everyone knows what the Philippines vs. Mexico boxing rivalry brings to the ring and I’m excited to display my talents for the boxing fans in Texas and watching around the world.”

The former WBC 122-pound world champion, Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs), returned from a layoff due to injury to score a near shutout decision victory over Leonardo Baez in his featherweight debut in November 2021 on the undercard of Canelo vs. Plant. The 31-year-old went on the road to the U.K. to capture his title in 2017, winning a decision over previously unbeaten Gavin McDonnell. A native of Mexico City, Vargas made five successful defenses of his title, defeating top contenders Oscar Negrete, Ronny Rios and Azat Hovhannisyan. His fifth successful title defense came via unanimous decision over former world champion Tomoki Kameda in July 2019.

“This fight on July 9 will be a great battle against the Filipino warrior Mark Magsayo,” said Vargas, who trains under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristáin. “This is going to be exciting combat from start to finish. We know that he has great power, but we’ll be ready to counter that, and anything else he brings to the ring. This is going to be a magnificent fight and I can’t wait to step in there and compete.”

The 25-year-old Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) will debut at 126 pounds after dropping a 2021 Fight of the Year contender against Stephen Fulton Jr. in November on SHOWTIME, in which the two champions traded blows for 12 grueling rounds, eventually leading to what some observers thought was a controversial majority decision loss. Figueroa used his youth and relentless pressure to become the first person to defeat Luis Nery in their championship clash on SHOWTIME prior to the Fulton fight. A native of Weslaco, Texas, who has previously fought in San Antonio six times, Figueroa added to his family’s legacy by capturing the world title, joining his brother Omar Figueroa, who previously held the lightweight world championship.

“I’ve been waiting to get back in the ring to do what I love,” said Figueroa. “Carlos Castro is a great fighter and we both have to prove why we belong at the top of the 126-pound division. I can’t wait to fight in San Antonio in front of my fans, it’s really one of my favorite places to compete and I’m planning on giving everyone who comes out a great show like always.”

Castro (27-1, 12 KOs) was born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the U.S. as a child. Now living in Phoenix, Ariz., Castro most recently dropped a narrow split-decision against two-division champion Luis Nery in February, with one point on the cards ultimately holding Castro back from keeping his unbeaten record intact. The 28-year-old made his name as a 122-pound contender, but has also competed at featherweight, including a 10th round TKO victory over veteran contender Oscar Escandon in August 2021.

“I’m thrilled to be back in the ring,” said Castro. “I have some real business to handle against Figueroa on July 9. There’s no better fight for me to show that I’m back. I’m ready to show that I’m capable of being in the mix at the top of the division and to earn a shot at the title.”

The 27-year-old Martin (15-0, 11 KOs) rose up the lightweight rankings in 2021 with a pair of impressive victories before most recently delivering a New Year’s Day KO over Romero Duno. In 2021, Martin knocked out the previously unbeaten Jerry Perez in a dominating performance in April, before earning a unanimous decision over Ryan Kielczweski in August. Originally from Indianapolis, Ind., Martin now trains in the Dallas-area under the guidance of top trainer James alongside unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.

“I’ve been training hard in Dallas and I’m just excited and ready to go,” said Martin. “Núñez is a boxer-puncher, so I expect him to mix it up with some fast combinations and to try and throw my movement off, but I’ll be ready for all of that. Fight fans are going to enjoy an action fight with this one. We’ve got the speed, power and athleticism to put on an exciting show on July 9.”

Representing La Chorrera, Panama, Núñez (23-3, 21 KOs) enters this fight with knockout victories in his last two fights, including most recently stopping Richard Solano in the first round in October 2021. The 28-year-old moved back up to lightweight for those two victories after challenging three-division champion Gervonta Davis in July 2019 for a 130-pound title. Núñez has fought professionally since 2010 and has a brother also named Ricardo who is a veteran pro fighter in the featherweight division.

“I’m very happy to be back in a big fight on July 9,” said Núñez. “You’re going to see a whole new fighter against Martin. I’m coming to fight and impose my style on my opponent. Martin is a good boxer who’s made it to a high level, but he still has to show what he’s made of. I’m going to give one hundred percent to stop his rise and be the first person to beat him.”

The 29-year-old Ellis (23-0, 14 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time since October 2020, having earned a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Alexis Rocha in his last outing. Originally from Lynn, Mass., Ellis also owns a pair of victories over veteran contender Eddie Gomez, including a first-round knockout over Gomez in December 2016, before winning by unanimous decision in their 2019 rematch. He takes on the Buenos Aires, Argentina native Palmetta (17-1, 12 KOs), who represented his home country at the 2016 Olympics before turning pro in November 2016. The 32-year-old has won his last 11 fights, with 10 coming by stoppage, including most recently defeating Yeis Solano in October 2021.

“I’m excited to be back in the ring on July 9,” said Ellis. “I want to thank my whole team, and I can’t wait to deliver fireworks for everyone watching this fight. I’m looking to steal the show and I’m training hard to make sure I do just that. You definitely want to tune in and see what I’m going to do in this one.”

“This fight is very special because it is the same day as Argentinian Independence Day,” said Palmetta. “Four years ago, I made the decision to leave my home and travel to the United States to further my boxing career. I want to face the biggest opponents, so I can earn the opportunity to become a world champion. This fight against Ellis is the big step I’ve been looking for. On July 9, get ready, because I’m coming with hunger, hard work, and determination. It hasn’t been easy for me; I have fought through the pain and struggle, and because of it, I remain humble and more motivated than ever.”

Fulton on win over Figueroa: ‘I was landing a lot of clean shots’

In a non-stop action fight between undefeated super bantamweight world champions, Stephen Fulton Jr. unified WBO and WBC titles with a majority decision victory over Brandon Figueroa live on SHOWTIME Saturday night in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

This showdown was set up earlier this year with each fighter capturing a world title by defeating an undefeated opponent, as Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) bested Angelo Leo in January to capture the WBO belt, while Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) stopped Luis Nery in May to earn his WBC title. The two champions put on a memorable display, combining to throw over 1,700 punches across 12 rounds according to CompuBox.

“I was catching him in between every shot he was throwing,” said Fulton. “He was making it sloppy and rough.”

“I hurt him like five or six times,” said Figueroa. “I put the pressure on for the whole 12 rounds, landed the cleaner shots and hurt him. I thought I only lost four rounds at the most.”

It was Figueroa’s activity (1,060 punches thrown) against Fulton’s accuracy (37% connect rate) squaring off throughout a narrow fight in which neither man was able to sustain momentum for long. In rounds four through seven, the fighters were separated by just two punches landed (103 to 101 for Figueroa).

“I was landing a lot of clean shots,” said Fulton. “He was throwing wild shots that the fans were enjoying, but he was hitting my arms a lot.”

In a memorable sixth frame, each fighter landed nothing but power shots with Figueroa connecting on 36 to Fulton’s 34. In a frantic 10th round, Figueroa looked to have Fulton hurt after numerous flurries of power punches. However, Fulton was able to recover in the final two rounds to win both the 11th and 12th on two judges’ cards.

That final push helped Fulton hold on with the score of 116-112 from two judges overruling a 114-114 card. After the fight, both fighters believed they had done enough to win and were open to battling again in a rematch. 

“It was an amazing experience,” said Fulton. “The judges made their decision and we can run it back.”

“It was the robbery of the year,” said Figueroa. “The fans who watched this live know who won. I always come to fight and I did that all night.”

 

Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

In the co-main event, top super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs) remained unbeaten with a majority decision over Mexico’s Eduardo Baez (20-2-2, 7 KOs) after 10 rounds of action.

“I’m coming off a long lay-off so I was a little bit rusty,” said Aleem. “I wanted to stop him, but he kept bringing it. I did what I had to do.”

Aleem showed off his versatile attack from the outset, flashing combinations combined with consistent activity that would carry him throughout the 10 rounds. Baez proved to be a sturdy challenge, and despite loading up for big right hands throughout the fight, he was able to land and keep Aleem from overwhelming him.

Aleem switched between southpaw and orthodox stances during the action to varying success, and overall held a 232 to 111 advantage in punches landed. Of those 232, Aleem connected on 90 body shots that helped him keep Baez at bay.

“I’m a dog,” said Aleem. “I grinded it out. I turned southpaw and got caught with some shots, but I hung in there. I can hang with anyone. It doesn’t matter who steps in there against me, I’m going to win.”

Baez fought valiantly through a cut on his forehead that opened up in the middle rounds due to an accidental headbutt. Aleem appeared to have Baez hurt in the ninth round with a counter right hand from the southpaw stance, but ended up holding on through round 10 to win the decision with scores of 98-92, 96-94 and 95-95.

“He was a tough Mexican fighter, but I got the job done,” said Aleem. “I want the winner of the main event. They can run but they can’t hide.”

 

 

Figueroa-Fulton set for 11/27 in Las Vegas

Undefeated 122-pound world champions are set for a unification clash as WBC champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa and WBO champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr. will battle in the SHOWTIME main event Saturday, November 27 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

Figueroa and Fulton were originally scheduled to face each other on Saturday, September 18, before the fight was pushed back due to a positive COVID-19 test for Figueroa.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast will begin at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and also features undefeated super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem battling Mexico’s Eduardo Baez in the 10-round co-main event. Opening the telecast, unbeaten rising bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell takes on Mexico’s Alejandro Barrios in a 10-round showdown. The event is promoted by TGB Promotions.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

# # #

Fulton on fight with Figueroa: ‘I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this fight’

With just over two weeks until his highly anticipated super bantamweight unification fight on SHOWTIME, undefeated WBO 122-pound world champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr. has relocated to Las Vegas to put the finishing touches on his summer-long training camp. Fulton Jr. will face WBC champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa in the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING main event on Saturday, September 18 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

“I am trying to get used to everything in Vegas,” said Fulton Jr. “I wanted to get away from home, be away everyone and get myself a little uncomfortable to finish up camp.”

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Pa., Fulton Jr. (19-0, 8 KOs) is the city’s only world champion following a triumphant win over then-unbeaten Angelo Leo in January on SHOWTIME. This will mark the first title defense for Fulton and Figueroa, who have been on a collision course for many years and finally meet to determine the king of the 122-pound division.

“I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this fight,” added Fulton Jr. “I don’t know why people expect me to feel more pressure entering my first defense and this huge unification fight, but I don’t let any of that get to me. I know there are people doubting me and I can’t wait for them to watch what happens on September 18.”

The 24-year-old Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) captured his world title from former two-division champion Luis Nery via devastating seventh-round knockout in May on SHOWTIME. Immediately following his win, Fulton entered the ring for a face off with the newly minted champ which set up their September unification. Figueroa is well-known for his hard-charging style while Fulton Jr. is lauded for his boxing prowess, setting the stage for an excellent clash of styles.

“I feel like this is a classic boxer-brawler matchup, but I showed in my last fight that I can brawl too,” explained the 27-year-old champ. “He can’t become a pure boxer now though, it’s too late in the game to teach him that. I am more than prepared for him to come in and try to walk me down but if he has a different game plan, I have the adjustments ready.”

The fight marks Fulton’s first fight as a professional in Las Vegas, the site of boxing’s biggest title fights in history. Figueroa will make his second appearance in Vegas where he suffered his lone pro blemish – a split draw against Julio Ceja in 2019.

“This is my first professional fight in Las Vegas,” stated Fulton Jr. “I fought in Nevada as an amateur. I fought in the Junior Golden Gloves here and won the whole tournament.”

Trained in his hometown by coach Wahid Rahim, Fulton has adopted a new approach to his training camps when preparing for his last two fights.

“I trained alone for this camp and I feel like this is how it needs to be moving forward as a championship fighter,” added Fulton. “Due to the COVID situation, I just tried to stay away from everybody.

“I was locked down like this when training for the Angelo Leo fight, too. I like it better to be in the gym by myself or with less people. I like it better because I get to focus more on myself. I have the ring to myself; I have the bags to myself. You don’t have to worry about taking turns or waiting for anything when you are the main priority. You get your job done faster, easier, and more efficiently.

“I worked harder. I sparred more, I focused more on my endurance. The world will see September 18 on SHOWTIME.”

The three-fight boxing event will open SHOWTIME’s combat sports doubleheader on September 18. Immediately following the main event from Las Vegas, BELLATOR MMA will air live from San Jose, Calif. with a three-fight event headlined by light heavyweight contenders Phil Davis and Yoel Romero.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Figueroa: ‘We’ve been waiting for this fight against (Stephen)Fulton’

Undefeated rising star Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa scored a career-best victory and captured the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship with a seventh-round knockout of unbeaten two-division champion Luis Nery Saturday night in the main event of action live on SHOWTIME from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California in a Premier Boxing Champions event.

“It feels amazing, this is a dream come true,” said Figueroa. “I know everyone doubted me, but here I am with the belt. It’s all thanks to hard work and dedication.”

The fight between undefeated champions lived up to its billing with Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) implementing his smothering strategy early, forcing a firefight with Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) from the opening bell. Nery appeared to control much of the early action, owning edges in punches landed (209 to 177) and punch accuracy (34% to 27%) throughout the fight, according to CompuBox.

But it was the 24-year-old Figueroa’s persistence in coming forward that eventually began to wear on Nery. Better fourth and sixth rounds for Figueroa showed cracks in Nery’s armor and were a harbinger for what would come soon after.

“The plan was to break him,” said Figueroa. “My corner told me to pressure him and that he wouldn’t last. That’s exactly what happened. I knew he was getting tired, he was trying to box me. I saw him breathing heavy. My team just said it was time to go get him.”

In the seventh round, Figueroa appeared to hurt Nery early with a series of powerful hooks, as Nery altered his strategy and began to clinch. Continuing to press inside, Figueroa was eventually able to land the decisive punches in the form of a combination punctuated by a left hook to the body.

“You saw tonight what I can do,” said Figueroa. “I brought it to him and the hard work paid off. We did our homework. We did a great job in the gym and just took it to him.”

Nery had a delayed reaction to the powerful body shot, but once he hit the canvas, he was unable to beat referee Thomas Taylor’s count, ending the fight 2:18 into the round. Figueroa’s triumph sets him up for a unification showdown on Saturday, September 11 on SHOWTIME against WBO 122-pound champion Stephen Fulton Jr., who joined Figueroa in the ring after the fight.

“We’ve been waiting for this fight against Fulton and it’s finally going to happen,” said Figueroa. “I knew I had to get through Luis Nery first. Everything has its time. I envisioned that I was going to beat Nery and now I see myself beating Fulton. I know he’s coming with everything he’s got and that we’re going to give the fans a hell of a show.”

“Great performance by Brandon tonight,” said Fulton. “That’s what I predicted would happen. This is my time now though. I’ve been waiting for this moment to finally fight Brandon. I knew that Brandon would fight how he always fights. I’m just ready for my time against him. We’re going to put on a hell of a performance. Congratulations to him tonight, but I’m coming next.”

In the co-main event, former super bantamweight unified world champion Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) dominated the second half of the fight to win a 10-round unanimous decision over Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs).

“This win is a step closer to getting back on top and getting a world title once again,” said Roman. “I knew he was a tough fighter who hit hard, so I had to fight smart and make adjustments.”

After a close first half of the fight, the Los Angeles native Roman began to figure out the awkward and hard-charging attack of Mexico’s Espinoza. In round seven, Roman connected on a vicious combination of double left uppercuts, punctuated by a sweeping left hook, that bloodied the nose of Espinoza.

“I felt good overall in there,” said Espinoza. “I could have pressured him a bit more and closed his angles, but it was a good fight. Danny is a tough fighter who withstood a lot of shots to the head. He’s a quality fighter.”

Espinoza had actually out landed Roman 124 to 119 across the first six rounds of the fight before Roman’s adjustments led to a 101 to 66 edge in punches landed in his favor across the final four frames.

“I started to get my distance and started fighting my fight and controlling the ring,” said Roman. “Once I did that, everything started to fall into place. I was surprised he went the distance, but he has a lot of heart. He’s a tough fighter.”

The bloodied nose immediately became a target for Roman, as Espinoza had to be checked by the doctor before beginning the ninth round before continuing to take the brunt of the punishment in the fight. Roman’s performance in the second half of the duel was enough to give him the victory, as he prevailed on all three judges’ scorecards with tallies of 97-92 and 98-92 twice. All three judges gave Roman the final six rounds of the fight.

“I’m the mandatory so I want a title shot now,” added Roman after his victory. “I want the winner of the main event.”

In the opening bout of the telecast, rising super featherweight contender Xavier Martinez (17-0, 11 KOs) remained unbeaten with a unanimous decision victory over former title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs) in an action-packed 10-round fight.

“I could have boxed him more but I wanted to give the fans action,” said Martinez. “There’s nothing to complain about – I got the victory. I made it tougher on myself but I will learn from it. It’s back to the drawing board but it’s a great victory.”

“I am happy and excited to put on a good show,” said Burgos. “All in all, I am just glad that the fans enjoyed the fight.”

The veteran Burgos looked to press his opponent from the outset, but Martinez was up to the task and found spots to land counter left hooks early and often. Martinez rode his counterpunching success to a 294 to 245 advantage in power shots landed throughout a fight that was dominated by power punches.

“I wasn’t surprised he came forward,” said Martinez. “He’s a tough competitor. I thank him for taking the fight, he was tough as hell. These kinds of fights are going to help me get better.”

Martinez also held the edge in accuracy, landing 37% of his punches to his opponent’s 31% connect rate. It was the body attack that kept Burgos in the fight, as his best moments came when racking up his 54 to 44 lead in body shots landed.

“He was a great opponent,” said Burgos. “I was brought in on late notice just two weeks in advance. That’s not an excuse but just the reality. Martinez fought a hell of a fight. He is definitely one of the best opponents I have ever faced.”

The two men punctuated their action fight with wild exchanges in the 10th round, as Martinez landed big shots that seemed to only make Burgos more eager to continue pushing forward. After the final bell, all three judges saw the fight in favor of Martinez, by the score of 99-91 three times. SHOWTIME’s unofficial ringside scorer Steve Farhood scored the fight 98-92.

“I was surprised by the scores,” said Burgos. “I did not think I only won one round. The public opinion and the fact that the fans were booing is what I take with me today. The fans spoke louder than the cards. I am glad to have given them an exciting fight.”

“It was a fun fight,” said Martinez. “I know the fans enjoyed the fight. I thought I could have done better, but I was landing clean, hard shots throughout. Even when he was throwing, I was slipping a lot of them and catching him. I showed I can hang in there with tough fighters.”

Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Figueroa: ‘I don’t think he’s going to want to go toe-to-toe with me’

Unbeaten WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa gave updates on his current training camp and previewed his showdown against Damien Vazquez taking place Saturday, September 26 on part one of a first-of-its-kind SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

The 23-year-old Figueroa has begun to make a name for himself as a force in the 122-pound division and has moved past being known primarily as the younger brother of former champion Omar Figueroa. However, it is the encouragement and motivation he receives from his brother, in addition to his father and head trainer, Omar Sr., and his sister and strength and conditioning coach, Omayra, that has helped him get to this point.

“It’s great to have my family behind me because they understand what I fight for,” said Figueroa. “Especially in a career like this, it’s not easy, and they help me a lot both mentally and physically. I’m grateful that they support and push me the way that they do.

“Training camp for this fight has been going really well. I’ve been sparring a lot with Omar Juarez and a number of guys from here in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ve just been helping each other out, keeping busy and keeping the work rate up.”

Figueroa returns to defend his title after fighting to an exciting draw against Julio Ceja in a November clash. Figueroa is set on making up for what he sees as far from his best performance, and believes that the extra rest time because of the pandemic will end up being an advantage..

“Heading into my last fight, I had some injuries that I was dealing with,” said Figueroa. “But with this pandemic and the quarantine, I got a chance to recover and fully heal. I’ve never had this much time between fights, so I feel great now and I’m prepared for this fight. I’m just anxious to fight at this point.

“I don’t take anything away from Ceja though. He came to fight. But we learn from every fight. What I took away from it was that even at the worst moment of my career, I didn’t lose. I’m a different fighter now, though. I’m healthy heading into this upcoming fight and I feel like everyone is going to see a different type of Brandon Figueroa.”

Figueroa’s September 26 foe Vazquez has already stated that he plans to make their title fight a “Mexican war” full of toe-to-toe action. For Figueroa, no stranger to action fights himself, he sees that as playing into his hands.

“I feel like the action fighting has been my style and game plan since day one,” said Figueroa. “But I obviously believe I’d also have an advantage boxing him at distance. So he can say whatever he wants, I don’t think he’s going to want to go toe-to-toe with me. I can guarantee you he’ll regret that.

“I see this as the biggest opportunity of my career, and Vazquez is standing in my way. This is my chance to show everyone why I’m one of the best fighters in the world. I’m ready, I’m focused on September 26 and I can’t wait to showcase my skills.”

The stacked doubleheader lineup includes a number of top fighters in and around the 122-pound division, including a vacant WBC title fight between Luis Nery and Aaron Alameda, plus former unified champion Danny Roman battling Juan Carlos Payano in a title eliminator. In addition, the winner of a future fight between recently crowned WBO champion Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton could loom as a possible opponent down the road. No matter who Figueroa may face next, he is in position to deliver action for boxing fans.

“At this point, I feel like any fight with me against a top 122-pounder is a great fight,” said Figueroa. “I’m willing to mix it up with any of them. I honestly don’t care who wants to fight me, I’ll take any of them to put on a great show for the fans. My team knows that as well. So hopefully after September 26 we can make a great fight with any of the other top fighters in my division.”

The unprecedented pay-per-view twin bill features six compelling fights in all, five of which are world title fights, on the same night for one price. Part one of the SHOWTIME PPV telecast begins live at a special time of 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT with the three-fight card topped by unbeaten WBC Champion Jermall Charlo facing top contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Figueroa will defend his title against 122-pound contender Vázquez in the co-featured bout, while WBO Bantamweight World Champion John Riel Casimero faces off against unbeaten Duke Micah in the pay-per-view opener.

Following a 30-minute intermission, the second three-fight card, headlined by the historic unification matchup between WBC Super Welterweight Champion Jermell Charlo and IBF and WBA 154-pound champion Jeison Rosario, will begin. Unbeaten former champion Nery will battle undefeated Alameda for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in the co-feature, while former unified champion Danny Román faces off against former champion Juan Carlos Payano in a WBC Super Bantamweight title eliminator bout to open the second installment of the pay-per-view.