By Jake Donovan
Fighters advised by Al Haymon have come under fire recently for being matched soft while exhausting network budgets. If there's any truth to the opening bout of Saturday's SHOWTIME-televised tripleheader is a welcomed exception, as Omar Figueroa puts his unbeaten record and alphabet lightweight title on the line versus Mexico's Daniel Estrada.
The bout airs live from the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Also appearing on the show, Sakio Bika and Anthony Dirrell meet in a 12-round rematch for a super middleweight belt, while Shawn Porter and Kell Brook headline the show in a scheduled 12-round matchup of unbeaten welterweights.
Figueroa (23-0-1, 17KOs) defends his belt for the second time, though his last ring appearance became a major scare. In his first fight back after recovering from hand injuries, the 24-year old Texan struggled to a split decision win over Jerry Belmontes in this very same venue. His previous appearance was a Fight of the Year contender, going to war with Nihito Arakawa in their 12-round slugfest last July.
Estrada (32-2-1, 24KOs) crosses the Mexican border for the first time in his professional career. Saturday's bout also marks his first major title fight, one in which he enters riding a nine-fight win streak but having not fought since last December.
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight's lightweight title fight will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: OMAR FIGUEROA vs. DANIEL ESTRADA
Ryan Burton (Estrada UD): "Figueroa hasn't looked the same since hurting his hand versus Arikawa. This is just a hunch but I think the Nacho Beristain trained Edtrada pulls off an upset."
Jake Donovan (Figueroa UD): "I'm not sure how much longer Figueroa's reign will last, as long as he's struggling to rack out knockouts at this level. Estrada is as live an opponent as any in recent memory on Showtime, but Figueroa will find a way to win - with the judges' help or otherwise."
Ernest Gabion (Figueroa KO6): "I don’t see Estrada posing much of an issue to Panterita as he in large part stands in front of you and bangs so Figueroa should be able to find him easier than he did Jerry Belmontes."
Cliff Rold (Estrada KO): "Figueroa is defensively deficient and just feels like a loss waiting to happen. Estrada seems like the sort of hard nosed, hard way up contender to take advantage. It should be fun all the way."
Reynaldo Sanchez (Figueroa UD): "I like Figueroa to keep his belt, turning away a determined Estrada."
Luis Sandoval (Figueroa late TKO): "Even with Juan Manuel Marquez supporting Estrada, I think Omar Figueroa will continue his reign in the Lightweight division. My main concern is how long can Figueroa's hands hold up but he's shown even when they don't, he still finds a way to gut it through. Figueroa will return with an impressive victory."
Alexey Sukachev (Figueroa UD): "It will be the gem of the night, a true clash for boxing fans. The winner will be one, whose chin is better than fists of a counterpart. Estrada has a great chin but Figueroa will be too much for him, and knockdowns (in Omar's favor) will decide the winner."
Anson Wainwright (Estrada W12): "Figueroa is as tough and game as they come and will march forward throwing punches all night long, however against guys who looks to box he's had trouble, that was the case in April against Jerry Belmontes and it will be the same again Saturday. Estrada is a tall boxer who will keep Figueroa on the outside and be a nightmare for him. I see Estrada winning a points close decision that will be closer on the cards than it will appear watching it."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox