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Omar Figueroa Jr: “My Journey is Just Beginning”

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Omar Figueroa Jr: “My Journey is Just Beginning” – Bullying exists in every facet of our society. Its impact can have a detrimental effect on its victims.

In some cases, it can also help shape a destiny.

For Omar Figueroa Sr., bullying forced him to learn to defend himself from those who would torment him because he was a first generation Mexican immigrant from Tamaulipas.

But this isn’t the anti-immigrant story one might expect. “It wasn’t the white American population coming after me, it was my own people,” Figueroa Sr. stated of his experience growing up in Raymondville, Texas. “They would call me a mojado (wetback) and punch me. Eventually I had to learn to fight back. It was the worst thing that ever happened to them.”

He wasn’t about to let his son, Omar Figueroa Jr., face the same fate. He would learn to fight early. “I taught him just in case,” Figueroa Sr. stated. “Thank god he never had problems.”

Twenty-two year old Figueroa Jr. is now an undefeated lightweight with fourteen wins, eleven knockouts and one draw. He tends to be more philosophical about the situation: “If it wasn’t because of the bullying, we wouldn’t be here now.”

The Weslaco, Texas native’s stock recently soared with his impressive sixth round stoppage over the highly regarded Michael “The Artist” Perez. It was a fight that boxing insiders felt would propel Perez, also an undefeated pro and former national golden gloves champion, into contender status on his way to becoming the next Puerto Rican sensation.

Omar Sr. had terrible doubts. “I didn’t want to take the fight. But Omar Jr. has a lot of pride and didn’t want to say no because of the boxing rivalry between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans,” he remembers. “I told my son that I consider this guy a great fighter. A ten. And he said, ‘I don’t care’.”

“I knew I was the underdog,” said Figueroa Jr. “But my dad and I know what I’m capable of. I never doubted I was going to win. And I knew I would win by knockout.”

While many young fighters often display such bravado, having spent three weeks sparring against the late and legendary Edwin Valero couldn’t help but boost his confidence. “That was awesome. He’s the hardest puncher I’ve ever been in the ring against. I’ve sparred with heavyweights and this guy punched harder.”

Before his passing, Valero, an undefeated champion with a 100 percent knockout ratio, had requested that Figueroa Jr. travel to Venezuela and help him train for a month in preparation for a match against boxing superstar, Manny Pacquiao.

Figueroa Jr. walked away from the Valero experience with some important lessons. “It made me appreciate what it takes to be a great fighter. His conditioning was insane and off the charts. After sparring with Valero, getting in the ring with any other fighter is easy.”

Although they knew he could hang with the best, fighting Perez was still a tough decision for Omar Sr. “We took the fight. But in my mind I was thinking, Is this too early? On the other hand, I was thinking about Valero and the great feedback he gave me about my son.”

What transpired on Showtime’s ShoBox card was a classic match up between two talented and hungry fighters. Perez came out firing but Figueroa had an answer for everything. Ultimately, it was a relentless body attack that forced the Puerto Rican to succumb. “Besides the body shots, he realized he couldn’t hurt me with anything he threw,” Figueroa Jr. said.

His brutal body attack was no secret to Omar Sr. While training for Perez, the feedback he received from trainer Joel Diaz re-affirmed his belief. “Joel was telling me, your son hits harder than anyone to the body. I knew if he landed enough of those shots, Perez would eventually break.”

It was before the sixth round that Perez’s people finally threw in the towel. Showtime boxing analyst Antonio Tarver commented on Figueroa’s impressive work. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone commit to the body like that,” he said during the broadcast. “That’s a great way to get to the next level.”

But Figueroa Jr.’s game isn’t perfect. Omar Sr. admits there are times when his son takes risks which leave him open. “That’s my baby in the ring and this is a sport where the less punishment you take, the better, so I tell Omar to cover up. But he says ‘it’s okay’. Let them hit me so I can hit them back even harder.”

The machismo is very much a part of the sport. “I have to prove that when I’m in the ring, I’m the alpha-male,” Figueroa Jr. said. “I love competition and I have to prove I’m the best at whatever I set my mind to do.”

A four-year letterman in baseball and record holder of several track and field records, he chose boxing for its individualistic nature. “When I’m in the ring, it’s all on me,” he said. “That’s what I love. In the ring, it’s up to me. I love the pressure, the anxiety, everything. It’s exciting.”

Currently promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, his sights are set high. “I want a world title because if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it big,” said Figueroa Jr. “I look forward to tougher competition. I can’t wait. The only road to greatness is to defeat the best and that’s what I plan to do. My journey is just beginning.”

On Youtube: Omar “Panterita” Figueroa Jr. vs. Michael “The Artist” Perez.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHkBZTyjmrI

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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