Brandon Figueroa was surprised and disappointed when he learned Stephen Fulton Jr. agreed to fight Naoya Inoue next, not him.
Figueroa figures that his rematch with Fulton will still happen at some point. Figueroa had hoped, however, to get the opportunity to avenge his lone loss in his next fight.
Now that Fulton is committed to opposing one of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport, Figueroa’s full focus is on meeting Mark Magsayo for the WBC interim featherweight championship March 4 at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California.
The date and site of the Inoue-Fulton fight haven’t been announced, but Fulton has publicly acknowledged that he will defend his WBC and WBO 122-pound crowns versus Inoue next in Inoue’s home country of Japan.
“At the end of the day, you know, my job is to train and fight,” Figueroa told Showtime’s Brian Custer during a virtual press conference recently. “And no matter who they put in front of me, my job is to go out there and, you know, give a spectacular fight for the fans and just do what I do best, which is fight. And, I mean, I really wanted that rematch, but I feel like it’ll happen in the future. It’s just a matter of time.
“I know that Inoue is a really, really attractive fight for him and me, of course. But yeah, I mean, it was either me or Inoue. And, you know, I had told my dad whether it was Rey Vargas or Magsayo or whoever they put in front of me, I’ll be ready.”
That said, Figueroa (23-1-1, 17 KOs) temporarily lamented that he wouldn’t get a second shot to face Fulton, who won their 122-pound title unification bout by majority decision in November 2021 at Park MGM’s Dolby Live in Las Vegas. Philadelphia’s Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) defeated Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, on two scorecards – 116-112, 116-112 and 114-114 – in one of the most entertaining encounters of 2021.
“It was a great opportunity for us to make that fight happen and, you know, really, really give the fight fans what they wanted,” Figueroa said of his rematch with Fulton. “But I’m sure, you know, the fight with him and Inoue is gonna be a great fight as well, just as me and Magsayo’s fight. I feel like any fight that I’m in is gonna be a great, awesome fight, because everyone knows that I come to fight. So yeah, I was a little bummed out. But, I mean, I understand.”
Figueroa didn’t predict a winner between Fulton and Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), the Japanese knockout artist who will move up from the bantamweight limit of 118 pounds to fight for Fulton’s two 122-pound titles.
“I just feel like Inoue knows what he’s doing in there,” Figueroa said. “I just feel like he has all the capabilities to beat Fulton, but Fulton, you know, is very crafty, a very smart fighter. So, that one will be a good fight. I just feel like if Fulton just boxes him, I feel like he has a great chance. But if he stands in front of Inoue, I feel like Inoue can really hurt him.”
As for Figueroa, the former WBA/WBC 122-pound champion is listed by most sportsbooks as an approximate 3-1 favorite to beat the Philippines’ Magsayo (24-1, 16 KOs) in their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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