ONTARIO, California – Rey Vargas got a close look Saturday night at Brandon Figueroa’s ability to wear down an opponent with persistent pressure.
Now that Figueroa has beaten Mark Magsayo, the pressure is on Vargas to accept a title defense against Figueroa next. Figueroa entered the ring as the number one contender for Vargas’ WBC featherweight title and won the WBC interim championship by decisively defeating Magsayo on points in a 12-round “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event at Toyota Arena.
Mexico’s Vargas, who watched Figueroa-Magsayo from ringside, is expected to return to the featherweight division to defend his WBC belt against Figueroa (24-1-1, 18 KOs) after suffering his first loss three weeks ago.
“Hopefully,” Figueroa stated during his post-fight press conference when asked about boxing Vargas next. “I mean, like I said in the ring, if he wants to fight [it’ll happen next]. If he doesn’t, whoever. I know there’s a lotta great champions at 126. There’s a lotta contenders. There’s a lotta great fighters at 126. So, at this point, man, I’m just so happy and I just can’t wait to get in there with the best of the best and keep winning belts and keep giving fans a great show.”
Figueroa, 26, and Vargas, 32, both work with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, which should make it easier for them to reach an agreement.
Mexico’s Mauricio Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs), the newly crowned WBA featherweight champ, is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. Luis Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), another Mexican who owns the IBF 126-pound crown, is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
Two other Top Rank fighters, Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs) and Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs), will fight for the vacant WBO featherweight title April 1 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
O’Shaquie Foster (20-2, 11 KOs) thoroughly outboxed Vargas in their 12-round fight for the then-vacant WBC 130-pound championship February 11 at Alamodome in San Antonio. While Foster, of Orange, Texas, took a more tactical approach to beating Vargas (30-1, 22 KOs), the relentless Figueroa would try to wear him down by coming forward throughout their bout, battering Vargas’ body and throwing a lot of punches.
“Yeah, you know, I feel like he’s a tall, lanky fighter,” Figueroa said. “He’s gonna box me, obviously. And my job is gonna be to be the aggressor, as always. You know, come forward, you know, maybe box him a little bit, confuse him, lefty, righty, and just, as I do so well, just take the fight right to him.”
Figueroa’s pressure took a physical toll on the Philippines’ Magsayo (24-2, 16 KOs), who grew tired during the second half of their fight.
Though their match seemed more competitive, judge Zachary Young scored 10 of 12 rounds for Figueroa, who won 118-108 on his card. Judges Gary Ritter (117-109) and Fernando Villarreal (117-109) scored nine rounds apiece for the Weslaco, Texas native.
Referee Thomas Taylor deducted two points from Magsayo as well. Taylor took a point apiece from Magsayo for holding and hitting Figueroa in the eighth and 11th rounds.
Vargas, meanwhile, beat Magsayo by split decision in Magsayo’s previous appearance to win the WBC featherweight title July 9 at Alamodome.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.