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

Ra’eese Aleem believes he can defeat Stephen Fulton

Undefeated super bantamweight contender, Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs), who captured the WBA Interim title in his last fight, will be sitting ringside at today’s highly anticipated showdown between Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) and Brandon Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs).

Aleem, who is currently ranked WBA #1, is targeting all the champions at 122-pounds, especially WBO Champion, Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs). Since unified champion, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who holds the IBF and WBA titles, fights for another network, Aleem says Fulton should be fighting him before he steps in the ring with the winner of Nery-Figueroa.

“Stephon Fulton is a great fighter, a good boxer, but if we step in the ring, I’ll give him his first loss.” Aleem stated. “He’s waiting on the sidelines for the winner of Nery-Figueroa, and we should be fighting, and the winner of Fulton and I should be fighting them. Let’s keep it real, every time I’ve stepped up, I’ve dominated. The biggest duck in the division is definitely Fulton.”

Aleem, who is managed by Greg Hannley of Prince Ranch Boxing and promoted by Marshall Kauffman’s Kings Promotions, is a on a mission to become the undisputed champion at super bantamweight, and won’t stop calling out all the champions until he gets his shot.

Nery on Figueroa: ‘This is one of the biggest fights of my career’

Undefeated super bantamweight champions will meet for 122-pound supremacy when Luis Nery makes the first defense of his WBC world title against Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa in the headline attraction of a three-fight card live on SHOWTIME Saturday, May 15 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and will see former unified super bantamweight champion Danny Roman take on hard-hitting Ricardo Espinoza Franco in the 10-round co-main event, plus in the telecast opener undefeated super featherweight contender Xavier Martinez squares off against former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos in a 12-round WBA Super Featherweight Title Eliminator.

Nery vs. Figueroa will see the powerful two-division champion Nery pursue a signature win at super bantamweight, while the rising Figueroa looks to use his all-action style to earn a career-best victory and announce his presence amongst the sport’s elite. The winner of this fight will be in line to face WBO 122-pound champion Stephen Fulton later this year in a unification showdown.

The Tijuana, Mexico native Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) became a two-division world champion in September as he won a wide unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Aaron Alameda to capture his WBC crown. The 26-year-old had held an 11-fight knockout streak entering that 122-pound title fight, establishing himself as a premier knockout artist at bantamweight during a run that included stoppages of former champions McJoe Arroyo and Juan Carlos Payano. Nery first became champion in 2017, when he went to Japan and stopped Shinsuke Yamanaka in his home country to capture the WBC bantamweight world title.

“This is one of the biggest fights of my career,” said Nery. “I am going to win this fight in spectacular fashion. I’m training hard every day to make sure I get the win on May 15. This is my time to make history for Mexico.”

The 24-year-old Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs) returns to the ring after his most recent outing saw him stop Damien Vazquez in round 10 of their September 2020 clash. Figueroa applied his all-action style scoring knockouts over veteran contenders Moises Flores and Oscar Escandon to move his way up the 122-pound rankings. He captured the WBA’s interim super bantamweight title by stopping Yonfrez Parejo in April 2019, before eventually being elevated to “regular” champion. Figueroa has trained for this career-defining bout in Southern California, alongside his brother and former world champion Omar Figueroa.

“Training camp out here in California with Joel Diaz has been amazing,” said Figueroa. “I’m in tremendous shape and I’ll be ready to go on May 15. This is really one of the best training camps of my career. I know Nery is a tough fighter, maybe my toughest test to date. I’m 24 now, so it’s time for me to start fighting these world class fighters and prove to myself that I belong in there with the best fighters. I know Stephen Fulton is lined up for the winner of this fight, but I’m preparing 110% for Nery. I know he’s not just any fighter, so I’m doing everything I can to come away with the win on May 15.”

Ranked in the top five by all four sanctioning bodies at super bantamweight, Roman (27-3-1, 10 KOs) will look to continue on his path back toward another world title when he steps in the ring on May 15. The 30-year-old from Los Angeles most recently won an exciting 12-round unanimous decision over former champion Juan Carlos Payano last September. Roman first became world champion in 2017, when he stopped Shun Kubo for the WBA title. Roman would go on to unify titles by beating TJ Doheny for his IBF strap in 2019, before losing a narrow split decision to Murodjon Akhmadaliev in January 2020.

“I’m delighted to be fighting once again and can’t wait to step into the ring May 15 on SHOWTIME,” said Roman. “Ricardo Espinoza is a very tough fighter with a lot of heart. I know this fight is going to be another war and I’m fully prepared to go to battle. I’ve stayed in shape since my last fight, so fans can expect to see me throw a lot of punches. I’m going to make this fight a classic Mexican showdown.”

The 23-year-old Espinoza (25-3, 21 KOs) has fought professionally since 2015 and has won 15 of his last 16 fights heading into May 15. Fighting out of Tijuana, Mexico, Espinoza dropped a bantamweight interim title fight to current world champion John Riel Casimero in 2019 via a 12th round knockout in a fight that was virtually tied on the cards. Espinoza bounced back with two straight victories, including his most recent triumph, a unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten Brandon Valdes last August.

“I’m training as hard as I ever have for this opportunity on May 15,” said Espinoza. “I feel strong and prepared for anything Roman is going to throw at me. I know that he’s an accomplished fighter, but I have all of the tools to be victorious and win an exciting fight that the fans are going to love.”

A Mayweather Promotions prospect from Sacramento, Calif., Martínez (15-0, 11 KOs) has trained for this fight in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 23-year-old earned a career-best victory in his last outing, defeating veteran contender Claudio Marrero by unanimous decision in October on SHOWTIME. Previously, Martínez added three stoppage victories to his record in 2019 to run up a seven-fight knockout streak heading into the Marrero fight.

“I’ve felt great in camp and have already been preparing hard for this opponent,” said Martinez. “My last fight was an incredible experience. The biggest thing it taught me is just because you’re winning, don’t fall asleep at the wheel. That’s the same mentality I’m taking into this fight. I proved in my last fight that I can box and can hang with the best in the sport. This is a side many haven’t seen because I’ve been decapitating my previous opponents. The world is going to see how much versatility I carry in my skill set. May 15 is another day in the office, and it’s time to work!”

The Tijuana, Mexico native Burgos (34-4-2, 21 KOs) has faced an impressive resume of top fighters throughout his extensive career, dropping world title bouts to Mikey Garcia and Hozumi Hasegawa, in addition to a draw in a 130-pound title tilt against Roman Martinez. The 33-year-old ended up on the short end of decisions in challenges of unbeaten champion Devin Haney in 2018 and undefeated Hector Tanajara in January 2020. Most recently, he won a unanimous decision over Juan Ramon Bernal in March 2020.

“This is another opportunity for me to show that I have a lot left to give in the ring,” says Burgos. “Martínez doesn’t have a strong chin, as everyone saw when he got dropped twice by Claudio Marrero in his last fight. I’ve been training hard and waiting for an opportunity like this. Fans can expect an explosive performance on May 15.”

Danny Romans wants Luis Nery

Former unified WBA and IBF super-bantamweight world champion, Danny “The Baby Face Assassin” Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs), is back in the gym and making it clear who he wants next, and that’s WBC super-bantamweight champion Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs).

“My last fight against (Juan Carlos) Payano was a WBC final eliminator and I am back in the gym with the goal of getting the green belt against Nery,” said Roman, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions. “Since I started boxing, I have always wanted to win it and I’d like to make that a reality. I am more focused than ever as I wait for the opportunity to fight for WBC super-bantamweight title. I want to be a champion again and I will prepare harder than ever.”

“Daniel Roman can’t be written off at all, he has proven he is still at the top of his game,” said Alex Camponovo, general manager for Thompson Boxing. “Danny is making it clear that he wants the WBC strap and when he sets his mind on something, he finds a way to get it.”

“Daniel Roman is a consummate professional,” said Eddie Gonzalez, Roman’s manager and trainer. “He was right back in the gym after his win over Juan Carlos Payano and is more focused than ever. He wants Nery because he wants to win the green belt and I think that would be a great action-packed fight for the fans.”

“My desire to be a world champion once again is what’s fueling my hard work in the gym,” Roman concluded. “I know what I am capable of and I fought on the same night as Nery so we should both be ready at the same time. It makes sense and will be great fight for the fans.”

Alameda: ‘After I beat Luis Nery, everyone is going to know my name’

Unbeaten Aaron Alameda shared updates from his training camp and stated his intention for a career-defining win as he prepares to take on former champion Luis Nery for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in part two of a first-of-its-kind SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader Saturday, September 26 in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

“This is my first time on a card of this magnitude, so I’m going to come with everything I’ve got on September 26,” said Alameda. “I’m ready to put on a great show for the fans. After I beat Luis Nery, everyone is going to know my name.”

Alameda and Nery were originally scheduled to fight in a bantamweight bout in March on SHOWTIME before the event was delayed because of the pandemic. With Rey Vargas forced to vacate his WBC 122-pound title due to an injury, Alameda and Nery now have the opportunity to fight for the vacant belt, a change that only adds to Alameda’s inspiration during training.

“Now that this is a title fight, I’m even more motivated,” said Alameda. “I’m training very hard and I’m ready to win. I know Nery was a big puncher at 118-pounds, but he’s moving up in weight, we’ll see if he can bring that power up to 122-pounds. We’re also going to see if he can take my power.”

Along with his trainer Arnold Bravo, Alameda has trained in Bell Gardens, Calif. for the September 26 fight. Although there have been hiccups because of the pandemic, the fact that Alameda has known his opponent would always be Nery has made the process smoother.

“Training during a pandemic has been difficult, but we’ve essentially been training since January for this fight,” said Alameda. “When the March date was called off, we took a very short amount of time off, but then got right back into training for whenever it was going to happen.

“It’s been a very uncertain time and a lot of fighters haven’t really been training or sparring because they weren’t sure about the timing of their next fight. But because we’re in Los Angeles, we have a lot of local fighters to spar with. We were able to find three fighters to help us out with sparring and preparing to face a southpaw.”

The 27-year-old from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico took a slightly different route than many Mexican fighters to reach this point, opting for an extensive amateur career instead of turning pro as a teenager. Alameda embarked on his pro career in 2014 after competing in nearly 150 amateur fights, including a stint with the Mexican national team, but knew that eventually turning pro would be the only way to prove himself against the best in the world.

“I was very proud to be on the Mexican national team and I had a lot of fights for them,” said Alameda. “Eventually I decided that I wasn’t getting the opportunities I wanted as an amateur. I waited for the time to be right and that’s when I decided to turn pro. From there it was just a matter of time and building myself up toward a world title fight.”

Alameda and Nery are joined on the stacked September 26 lineup by top fighters at the 122-pound and 118-pound division, all of whom loom as potential future opponents for whoever emerges with the WBC title. Although Alameda is focused on his task against Nery, he is prepared to step in against any of the other top fighters around his weight class.

“Right now, I’m not thinking ahead,” said Alameda. “I’m only focused on Nery and winning this title. But I want to prove that I’m the best. After September 26, I’m willing to fight anyone they put in front of me.

“I understand that I’m the underdog in this fight, but that’s only making me hungrier to win. I’m going to go in there and show people who I am. I’m going to win and give the fans a good action fight.”

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. WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon Figueroa will defend his title against 122-pound contender Damien 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.

Benavidez-Love, Arreola-Augustin, Nery-Arroyo announced for Spence-Garcia undercard

Unbeaten IBF Welterweight World Champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. defends his title against undefeated four-division champion Mikey Garcia in a highly anticipated and historic showdown for pound-for-pound supremacy that headlines a Premier Boxing Champions on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View event on Saturday, March 16 from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The four-fight pay-per-view card will also see unbeaten former super middleweight world champion David Benavidez taking on veteran contender J’Leon Love in a 10-round showdown, undefeated former 118-pound champion Luis Nery battling former champion McJoe Arroyo in a 10-round attraction and fan-favorite Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola facing unbeaten Jean Pierre Augustin for 10-rounds of action.

The 22-year-old Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) became the youngest fighter to ever win a super middleweight title in 2017 when he defeated Ronald Gavril at just 20-years-old. Fighting out of Phoenix, Benavidez’s older brother Jose is also a pro fighter who challenged Terrence Crawford last year. Benavidez most recently won a rematch against Gavril last February, and as WBC “Champion in Recess” he will look to reclaim his belt against the winner of the Anthony Dirrell vs. Avni Yildirim bout for the vacant title on February 23.

Born in Detroit but fighting out of Las Vegas, Love (24-2-1, 13 KOs) has long been amongst the top contenders at super middleweight and most recently lost a decision to Peter Quillin in August. The 31-year-old had been previously unbeaten in seven bouts heading into the contest against Quillin.

Currently riding a nine-fight knockout streak, Nery (28-0, 24 KOs) will look to get one step closer to a fight to regain a bantamweight title when he steps into the ring March 16. The 24-year-old from Tijuana, Mexico twice traveled to Japan and stopped Shinsuke Yamanaka in WBC title fights. In 2018 he stopped Jason Canoy and Renson Robles heading into his U.S. debut against Arroyo.

A 2008 Olympian for his home country of Puerto Rico, Arroyo (18-2. 8 KOs) captured a 115-pound championship with a technical decision over Arthur Villanueva in their 2015 clash. After dropping decisions against Rau’shee Warren and Jerwin Ancajas, the 33-year-old most recently defeated Sander Diaz last June.

An exciting brawler inside the ring, Arreola (37-5-1, 32 KOs) is well-known for challenging the best heavyweights in the sport throughout his career, and for becoming a popular attraction in and around his native Los Angeles for his fighting style and persona. The 37-year-old faced the likes of Vitali Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek, and Bermane Stiverne, before challenging Deontay Wilder for his title in 2016. After a brief retirement, Arreola returned to stop Maurenzo Smith last December.

Unbeaten and fighting out of Louisville, Augustin (17-0-1, 12 KOs) will face his toughest and most experienced test to date in Arreola. Born in Haiti, Augustin turned pro in 2014 and has steadily climbed up the heavyweight rankings.