By Jake Donovan
The biggest event of the year is still a day away in Arlington, Texas, but it’s quite possible that another part of the Lone Star has already produced the best fight of the weekend.
In a brutal war fought at a blistering pace from beginning to end, undefeated lightweight prospect Omar Figueroa and comebacking Arturo Quintero fought to a split decision draw in their eight-round main event Friday night at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.
For the first three rounds, upset-minded Quintero – fighting for the first time in over four years – managed to good as gave as he was getting. Figueroa thought he could get away with pure boxing, but his Vegas-based opponent let him know otherwise, early and often.
It wasn’t until the third round when Figueroa truly realized that he was in a fight. Quintero was scoring to the body, but also landed a flush right hand upstairs to momentarily rock the house favorite, who hails from nearby Weslaco.
Figueroa bit down and fought back hard in the fourth, anxious to show his heavily-tattooed in-ring rival that he too can throw down when the situation calls for it. A right uppercut proved to be a momentum changer, though Quintero never stopped throwing. But the shot was enough to provide Figueroa with the opportunity to take the lead and unload with power shots, much to the delight of the crowd, who never had a chance to catch its collective breath.
Things slowed down ever so slightly in the fifth, but quickly picked up midway through the sixth, with neither fighter giving any ground. Figueroa continued to put together combinations upstairs, but Quintero managed to sneak back into the fight with a rally late in the round.
Most of the seventh round was fought at center ring at a phone booth’s distance, which greatly favored Figueroa, who was able to smother Quintero’s punches and get off his own shots first. When there was space created between the two, it was Figueroa stepping back just far enough to switch to southpaw and pump his jab to disrupt his opponent’s rhythm.
Both fighters emptied their clips in the eighth and final round, though it was Quintero forcing the action, perhaps the slightly more desperate of the two. Figueroa was content to box but managed to once again find himself in a brawl as he was left with little choice but to trade with Quintero, who was scoring with looping right hands. Figueroa never wilted, doing everything in his power to ensure that his ‘0’ would remain intact by night’s end.
Such was the case once the judges’ scorecards were read, though not in the manner in which he expected to remain unbeaten.
Scores of 77-75 went to each fighter on separate cards, with the third judge ruling the action 76-76, resulting in a split decision draw. Figueroa’s record moves to 10-0-1 (8KO) in what was easily the toughest bout of his young career. The local crowd pleaser, trained by former world champion Jesse James Leija, turns 21 a month from Saturday, but officially became a man in the ring by the end of this fight.
While Quintero’s return to the ring following a four-year hiatus ends with a draw, there’s no question that there is plenty of work to be found for the free-swinging lightweight. His record now stands at 15-4-1 (9KO), but his stock certainly skyrockets in the process.
In a bout that wasn’t anywhere nearly as thrilling as the aforementioned main event, Jermell Charlo preserved his undefeated record with an eight-round decision over Luis Grajeda.
There were no knockdowns and few moments of action, as evidenced by shrieks of “BORING” overheard in an otherwise silent crowd for much for the bout. Charlo, who resides in Houston, got the job done on the strength of his superior skillset, though also stood his ground and launched straight right hands when the situation called for it.
Scores were 80-72 (twice) and 79-73 in favor of Charlo, who improves to 14-0 (7KO).
Grajeda, who was exposed in his last bout (also on Telefutura) when he was fortunate to escape with a draw, heads home to Mexico with his first loss as a pro in falling to 10-1-1 (7KO). He is now winless in his last two contests.
The show was presented by Cavazos Boxing Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions and aired live on Telefutura.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.