IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up Saturday night’s intriguing 122lbs showdown between WBC champion Luis Nery and WBA Regular title holder Brandon Figueroa in California.
There’s no doubt which fight is the most eagerly awaited this weekend. It’s the clash of undefeated 122-pound champions Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa, who meet outdoors in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California, on Saturday night (early hours of Sunday morning in the UK).
Indeed, this has the potential to be one of the fights of the year. Each man has a come-forward, pressure-fighting style. Neither likes to give an inch. Nery, from Tijuana, is the favourite but money has been showing for Texas “Heartbreaker” Figueroa, who opened at 11/4 (+275) but has been bet down to 9/4 (+225) at Betfred.
Nery was a monster at bantamweight, heavy-handed and relentless. Up at 122 pounds he hasn’t looked quite as formidable, however. In his last fight, Nery didn’t have things all his own way against fellow-southpaw Aaron Alameda. He finished strongly in the last two rounds but there was a period in the fight where Alameda was outboxing him and hitting him quite easily.
Figueroa is the taller, naturally bigger fighter. He’s a switch hitter although I think he is more effective in the southpaw stance. Figueroa likes to crowd his opponents and keep the punches flowing and he is an excellent body puncher. Attack is Figueroa’s best defence.
It’s not surprising that Nery was installed as the favourite, though. He’s one of the heaviest hitters in the lighter weight divisions and he’s fought at a higher level than Figueroa, including two KO wins over Shinsuke Yamanaka in Japan. At 26, Nery is two years older than Figueroa and has the appearance of being a more mature fighter than his boyish-looking opponent. But looks can be deceiving. Figueroa can dig down and fight and he actually seems happiest in a give-and-take battle.
If you think Figueroa has it in him to pull off the upset you might be enticed by the 9/4 odds. While the odds have narrowed, that’s still not a bad price on a young, unbeaten champion who is big for the weight.
The big danger for Figueroa, as I see it, will be if he gets caught by a severe blow and taken out of the fight before he has had the chance to get into his busy-punching groove. But if Figueroa can stay on top of Nery he might be able to outwork him down the stretch.
Figueroa is something of a throwback, as he showed when going through with his contest against heavy-handed Julio Ceja despite his opponent having missed weight by four pounds. He was basically fighting an opponent in a heavier weight division. But Figueroa kept taking the fight to Ceja, round after punishing round. And it was Figueroa who closed out the fight strongly, sweeping the last round on the judges’ scorecards to pull out a draw.
I believe Figueroa specifically asked for the Nery fight. He genuinely wants to meet the best fighters at his weight (that throwback thing again). I understand that Figueroa has been training at Indio in the California desert for the last six weeks. He should be as ready as he can possibly be.
I’m seeing value in Figueroa as an underdog. But if you aren’t sure which way the fight will go, there are the usual proposition bets to consider.
This looks like being a long, gruelling fight, but it also figures to be a high-contact affair. The oddsmakers feel that there is a slightly better than even chance that the fight won’t hear the final bell. I tend to agree. So “Distance — No” at 8/11 (-138) could be worth a look.
If you feel the fighters are too well-matched for either man to get stopped, then “Distance — Yes” at 11/10 (+110) will be your preferred play.
Nery by KO TKO DQ is offered at 27/20 (+135) and if you think that Figueroa can impose his size and punch-volume and force a stoppage then the price of 9/2 (+450) on the Heartbreaker to win by KO TKO DQ might grab your attention.
As always, after trying to look at every aspect of the contest, I searched for clues at the weigh-in. Unless my eyes deceived me, Nery was taking gulps from a bottled sports drink after making weight. Did Nery have a difficult weight cut? You have to wonder. The size difference between the two boxers was striking. This, and a suspicion that Nery might have struggled to make 122, has me edging ever so slightly towards Figueroa springing the upset.
Main image: Esther Lin/Showtime.