Good, bad, worse: Brandon Figueroa’s coming-out party, fall of Luis Nery

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Brandon Figueroa isn’t the most talented fighter in the world. He isn’t particularly quick or athletic. And while he has solid skills honed over two thirds of his life, no one would confuse him with Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The new 122-pound titleholder is where he is because of hard work, innate toughness and determination, blue-collar qualities that make him a nightmare for any opponent and a favorite of fans.

Luis Nery learned that the hard way on Saturday, when the Mexican got off to a strong start only to wilt under Figueroa’s relentless pressure and have his night ended by a vicious left to the ribs at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

Nery was the better boxer, Figueroa the better fighter for the reasons stated above.

“My corner told me to pressure him and that he wouldn’t last. That’s exactly what happened,” Figueroa said.

A friend described Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) as a smaller version of Antonio Margarito, the physically imposing and seemingly indestructible welterweight from the 2000s. I liked that comparison. Margarito, at his best, was something to behold.

Of course, Margarito eventually fell to better all-around fighters. Is that on the horizon for Figueroa?

The victory over Nery set up a junior featherweight title-unification showdown with Stephen Fulton, a gifted, polished boxer who dominated in his most-recent fight an opponent with a similar style to that of Figueroa, Angelo Leo.

The oddsmakers will make Fulton a significant favorite. Nery was favored too, though. And we saw what happened. Figueroa isn’t the fighter Fulton is but he’s special in his own way.

Related

Brandon Figueroa takes Luis Nery's title with body shot in Round 7

***

BAD

Is Luis Nery (left) too small for the 122-pound division? Esther Lin / Showtime

Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) was a force of nature at 118 pounds, a good, athletic boxer with crushing power. Hence his record of 29-0 (24 KOs) before he moved up to 122. He’s 1-1 since, a lackluster decision over Aaron Alameda to win his title and the fight on Saturday.

The obvious conclusion is that Nery is naturally too small to handle elite junior featherweights, an argument that might have some merit.

“Like I said, Nery is a 118-pounder. He needs to say down there,” Fulton said after the fight Saturday.

However, that’s not fair to Figueroa because it minimizes his victory. As we’ve seen in the past, natural 122-pounders have had trouble with his size, strength and pressure. For God’s sake, he went toe-to-toe in a 2019 draw with Julio Ceja, who came in 4½ pounds over the limit.

The point is that Nery might’ve simply tangled with the wrong guy in his transition to a new weight.

Another possibility: Nery wasn’t quite as good as many thought even though he created a stir in his exciting run at 118 pounds. He had ability and punching power but he was always hittable. Maybe such an outcome was inevitable.

Of course, we’ll learn a lot about Nery going forward. We’ll see whether he decides to go back down to 118 pounds, which seems unlikely because he evidently had to work hard to make 122.

More important, we’ll see how resilient he is emotionally. That was a brutal loss in the end, one that could be difficult to overcome. Remember: He reportedly had never tasted defeat either as an amateur or a professional. This is new to him.

His response to the setback could be how he’s remembered as a fighter.

***

WORSE

The scoring in the Xavier Martinez-Juan Carlos Burgos 130-pound fight on the Figueroa-Nery card might’ve been accurate but it certainly doesn’t tell the complete story.

Burgos, a 33-year-old from Mexico who has faced a number of big-name opponents, showed up for his fight on the Figueroa-Nery card in prime shape and determined to show that he remains a fighter to be reckoned with.

He largely succeeded, pushing Martinez to his limits by leaving every single ounce of himself in the ring in a tremendous back-and-forth brawl. Burgos couldn’t have fought harder than he did.

The scores? All three judges had it 99-91 for Martinez, nine rounds to one.

Martinez deserved the victory. I scored it 97-93 in his favor, seven rounds to three. The talented all-around fighter from Sacramento, Calif., landed the cleaner, harder punches to win the fight and take another step toward his first shot at a title.

However, I fear that people will see the 99-91 scores and think that the fight wasn’t competitive, which would be a shame given Burgos’ effort. The spectators at the arena knew better. They booed Martinez afterward, not because he had his hand raised but because Burgos didn’t get enough credit from the judges.

I feel the same way about Burgos’ recent results: He’s 1-3 in his last four fights, with losses to Devin Haney, Hector Tanajara and now Martinez. It would be easy to write him off, especially at his age.

He doesn’t deserve that. He demonstrated in inspiring fashion on Saturday that he has a lot more to give.

Related

Xavier Martinez outpoints Juan Carlos Burgos in wild brawl

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RABBIT PUNCHES

If only Daniel Roman had more pop in his punches. The former junior featherweight titleholder gave a strong performance against Ricardo Espinoza on the Figueroa-Nery card, withstanding constant pressure to pick apart the capable Mexican and win a wide decision. Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) clearly demonstrated that he remains a wonderful boxer and one of the best 122-pounders in the world. He deserves the opportunity to fight for another title he covets. … Light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) scored a brutal knockout on Saturday in Manchester, England. The 28-year-old Ghana-born Londoner landed a jarring overhand right to the chin of Daniel Dos Santos (15-1, 8 KOs) and followed with another quick right as the Frenchman was going down to end the fight instantaneously in the fourth round. Buatsi, who is trained by Virgil Hunter, appears to be a legitimate threat to any 175-pounder. He has ability, seems to have a high ring IQ and he clearly can punch. … News item: Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh said that UFC President Dana White nixed a planned exhibition between Oscar De La Hoya and former MMA star Georges St-Pierre, who remains under contract to UFC even though he hasn’t fought in years. I get it … and I don’t. White doesn’t want Triller or anyone to have a free run at his fighters. At the same time, White allowed Ben Askren to fight Jake Paul. Why not let De La Hoya and St-Pierre make some money? And perhaps White could take a percentage of the pot. I have a feeling it has something to do with White’s dislike for De La Hoya. The boxer-turned-promoter probably will get the last laugh, though. He’ll find someone of note to fight and still make a boat-load of cash.

Related

Daniel Roman makes strong statement in victory over Ricardo Espinoza

Joshua Buatsi takes out Daniel Dos Santos with huge right in Round 4

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Georges St-Pierre blocked by UFC's Dana White