A relentless Brandon Figueroa proved he is the real deal at 122lbs with a seventh-round body shot KO of two-weight champion Luis Nery to win the WBC title in a firefight at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Saturday night.
Texan Figueroa already held the WBA’s ‘Regular’ belt at super-bantam, but his KO of Mexican puncher Nery added new legitimacy to his status and teed up a September 11 unification against WBO king Stephen Fulton. Now ‘Heartbreaker’ Figueroa is dining at the top table.
“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 plan was to break him. 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. You saw tonight what I can do. 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.
“We’ve been waiting for this fight against Fulton and it’s finally going to happen,” added 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.”
The rangy Figueroa took the fight to Nery, employing his suffocating pressure, but the WBC champion held an early edge with his devil and accuracy. Gradually, the fresher Figueroa began to wear the Mexican down from the fourth round as the vitality sapped from Nery’s punches.
Nery was reeling under pressure in the sixth as Figueroa belaboured him to the body and steadied him with a punishing left hook. The next round it was all over as a left uppercut downstairs sent Nery down in a delayed reaction for the full count.
At the time of the finish, Figueroa led 58-56 on one card with Nery ahead 59-55 on another and the third even at 57-57.
On the undercard, former unified super-bantamweight champion Danny Roman kept himself in the title mix with a clearcut 10-round decision over plucky Mexican Ricardo Espinoza. Scores were 98-92 (twice) and 97-93.
Espinoza’s industry posed problems early before Californian Roman’s greater pedigree and sharper combinations told in the second half of the fight. He bloodied Espinoza’s right eye and nose in the seventh with the severity of the injuries meriting an inspection from the ringside doctor before the ninth. The Mexican survived a punishing end to the fight to finish on his feet with his fighting pride intact.
“This win is a step closer to getting back on top and getting a world title once again,” said WBC No.1 contender Roman. “I knew he was a tough fighter who hit hard, so I had to fight smart and make adjustments.
“I started to get my distance and started fighting my fight and controlling the ring. 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.
“I’m the mandatory so I want a title shot now.”
Earlier, rising super-featherweight contender Xavier Martinez extended his unbeaten run to 17 with a unanimous decision over former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos, who fought admirably on two weeks’ notice. All three judges scored 99-91. The gritty Mexican fought at a high pace, but Californian Martinez’s freshness won through.
“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 kind of fights are going to help me get better.”
Main image: Esther Lin/Showtime.