By Jake Donovan
Omar Figueroa decided to save his best lightweight performance for his last. The unbeaten Texan informed the World Boxing Council (WBC) on Tuesday of his plans to vacate his title and campaign in the 140 lb. division, where he plans to pursue a showdown with lineal champ Danny Garcia.
The news comes on the heels of Figueroa’s thrilling 9th round knockout of Mexico’s Daniel Estrada this past weekend at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The bout was by far the most thrilling of the evening, also serving as the opening leg of a Showtime-televised tripleheader. Figueroa fended off a stiff challenge from Estrada, overcoming a cut suffered in round eight to stop his mandatory challenger in the very next round.
Whispers swirled leading into the fight of Figueroa (24-0-1, 18KOs) struggling to make the lightweight limit, with the belief that he stuck around long enough to capture a title eventually moving up in weight. The all-action rising star first gained notoriety with a Jan. ’12 knockout win over Michael Perez, unbeaten at the time and the better known commodity who was being groomed for stardom.
The win instead propelled Figueroa towards contention, although the journey was stalled as adviser Al Haymon preferred an active itinerary against journeyman-level competition while seeking the best opportunity down the road. That moment came last summer, when an interim title was made available for his eventual 12-round thriller with Nihito Arakawa in one of the best fights of 2013.
Figueroa was granted full status of the belt after it was officially vacated by Adrien Broner. His lone other defense prior to Saturday came this past April, struggling to a 12-round decision over Jerry Belmontes in his first fight back following a lengthy hiatus while allowing his oft-damaged hands to fully heal.
While it is unlikely that he lands a showdown with Garcia, a title fight figures to be in Figueroa’s future once he formally moves up to super lightweight. Garcia has been ordered to defend one of his belts versus mandatory challenger Viktor Postol, while also linked to a possible showdown with Lamont Peterson, who also owns a title in the 140 lb. division.
All of this comes while there remains the strong possibility that Garcia eventually outgrows the division altogether. His last fight was a 142 lb. catchweight versus overmatched Rod Salka, and has hinted at a possible Peterson showdown taking place outside the weight class before officially moving up to welterweight.
Whatever the case, Figueroa will somehow land in the thick of things once he’s fully ready to make the move five pounds north, which is expected to come once he resumes training after allowing his cut to fully heal.
The greatest benefactor of the announcement will be former two-division titlist Jorge Linares, who was due to face the winner of Saturday’s lightweight title fight. Linares appeared on the undercard, knocking out journeyman Ira Terry in two rounds. His next fight will most likely be for the vacant lightweight title, against the next highest rated lightweight contender once the next set of rankings are released by the WBC.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox