By Jake Donovan
The San Antonio Spurs came one game short of an NBA championship last month, but the city of San Antonio can now lay claim to hosting quite possibly the best fight of 2013.
Omar Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa spent rounds inflicting inhuman amounts of pain upon the other Saturday evening at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. In the end, it was Figueroa who prevailed, scoring knockdowns en route to a 12-round unanimous decision.
Scores were 118-108 (twice) and 119-107 in favor of Figueroa. The scores didn't come close to justifying the amazing action that took place in the ring, but hardly put a damper on what serves as a time capsule moment for the sport.
The bout appeared to be a rout early on, as Figueroa fought the only way he knows how – merciless and with every intention to knock you the (heck) out. The free-swinging Texan fired at will at Arakawa’s chin and body virtually non-stop through the first two rounds, only to be slowed down by a knockdown when referee Laurence Cole ruled that Arakawa’s knee touched the canvas in round two.
Concerns over Arakawa’s health and welfare were raised going into the third, but the visiting Japanese southpaw dug deep and managed to punch his way back into contention. The brave stand trickled into a frenetically paced three minutes of warfare that will garner serious consideration when the best rounds of the year are discussed in late December.
An accidental headbutt produced a cut on the bridge of Figueroa’s nose, only adding to the heightened drama. The sight of his own blood had no effect on the Texan, further motivated by rousing chants of “Omar!” throughout the rabid crowd on hand.
Figueroa regained momentum midway through the fight, spending what seemed like three straight rounds unloading on a way-too-brave Arakawa. The American lightweight was determined to go home with a knockout, but ironically saw his best shot pre-empted by a knockdown in that was ruled in round eight when Cole claimed Arakawa was being held up only by the ropes. Replays didn’t seem to support the call, but provided the visitor with at least eight seconds of not taking punches.
The bombs continued to fly for the duration of the fight, but Figueroa realized by round ten that his best shot at a knockout disappeared. The unbeaten slugger complained to his corner that both of his hands were damaged.
Arakawa doesn't speak English, but his fighting instincts must have picked up on Figueroa's injuries. After absorbing brutal punishment round after the round, the southpaw somehow managed to find the strength to rally and even briefly hurt Figueroa in a tide-turning 11th round.
Both fighters were running on fumes by the 12th and final round, but still never stopped throwing punches. Figueroa, for a guy with two damaged hands from early in the fight, still managed to land 480 punches on the night, coming at a 51% connect rates.
Those stats paved the way for his best win to date as he improves to 22-0-1 (17KO). Arakawa suffers his second loss within his past three fights - both of which served as his lone bouts outside of his native Japan. His stock still skyrockets, however, even as his record dips to 24-3-1 (16KO).
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