For the second time in as many tries, Brandon Figueroa turned in a performance to remember on the heels of his brother turning in one to forget.
In a career-best effort to date, the 24-year-old Figueroa knocked out Luis Nery in the 7th round to become a legitimate titleholder in the 122-pound division. Their two-belt title fight ended with Figueroa putting Nery down for the count in their Showtime main event Saturday evening at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
A right uppercut followed by a left to the body forced Nery to the canvas via delayed reaction knockdown, with referee Thomas Taylor counting him out at 2:18 of round seven.
“It feels amazing,” Figueroa stated after claiming Nery's WBC 122-pound title while defending his secondary WBA belt. “It’s a dream come true that I’ve had since I was seven years old. Now I’m here living it.”
The pair of unbeaten junior featherweights did their best to live up to lofty pre-fight public expectations of a slugfest. As much was expected by Nery and Figueroa from the moment they posted wins in separate bouts on the September 26 Showtime Pay-Per-View event in Uncasville, Connecticut. Tijuana’s Nery became a two-division titlist that night, outpointing countryman Aaron Alameda to win the WBC junior featherweight strap. Figueroa tore through Damien Vazquez in a 10th round stoppage to defend his secondary WBA title to pave the way for a showdown with Nery.
Both looked to target the body early, with Nery forcing a brisk pace and Figueroa willingly trading with the southpaw. Frequent infighting led to several brief clinches, including one sequence where Nery’s efforts to free himself resulted in his pushing Figueroa to the canvas.
Figueroa—born and raised in Weslaco, Texas—stood shoulder to shoulder with Nery in round two, letting his hands go in an action packed three-minute session. Nery landed the heavy artillery, connecting with winging left hands along with enough right hooks to cause a small cut under Figueroa’s left eye.
Action heated up in round three, if not a bit wild. Both were missing badly with power punches early in the frame, though Figueroa settling in long enough to catch Nery with a left hook. Nery fended off the blow and continued to respond, looking comfortable in his first fight back with longtime trainer Ismael Ramirez after a one-fight stop with 2019 Trainer of the Year Eddy Reynoso for his last fight.
Nery managed to match Figueroa’s punch output in round four—literally, as both threw 107 punches in the frame. Nery landed the more telling blows for those that actually connected, as both continued to throw with reckless abandon. Figueroa had his best moment late in the round, connecting with a right hand.
Figueroa opened up round five with a body shot, while Nery looked to box more than trade. The unbeaten Mexican offered lateral movement, getting Figueroa to chase and also abandon his body attack as a result. Figueroa managed to cut off the ring, though Nery fought well off of the ropes, snapping back the head of Figueroa late in the round.
Averaging 90 punches per round through the first five, Nery began to show signs of fatigue in the sixth. Figueroa spent portions of the frame hunting down the southpaw, burying himself in Nery’s shoulder once able to get him along the ropes where he let rip body shots and right hands as well as a left hook in the closing seconds.
Nery—who landed 209-of-608 total punches (34%), including 188-of-503 power shots (37%) according to Compubox—did his best to right the ship in round seven but was unable to turn the tide. Figueroa forced an inside fight, keeping Nery well within his desired punching range. A right uppercut crashed home on Nery’s chin, followed by a left uppercut which forced the 26-year-old to pause before turning and falling to the canvas.
A brief moment appeared where Nery would beat the count, but he remained on the deck as Taylor finished his count. Nery (31-1, 24KOs) continued to clutch his midsection as he walked back to the dressing room.
Figueroa improves—in every sense of the word—to 22-0-1 (17KOs). The unbeaten titlist landed 177-of-648 total punches (27%), including 173-of-533 power punches (32%). None were bigger than the left hand that put Nery down and done for the night.
“I know everybody doubted me, but it’s all hard work,” Figueroa noted. “We did our homework. We took our time and just took it to him. Joel (Diaz, Figueroa’s trainer) kept telling me to pressure him, that he wasn’t going to last. I did just that.”
Figueroa was ahead 58-56 on the scorecard of Zachary Young at the time of the stoppage, while Dr. Lou Moret had it 59-55 in favor of Nery. Edward Hernandez Sr. saw the action even at 57-57, with Figueroa ultimately taking it out of the judges’ hands.
The win comes two weeks after older brother Omar Figueroa suffered a knockout loss to Abel Ramos in this very venue. The younger Figueroa also came through for his family in August 2019, scoring a 4th round knockout of Javier Chacon at home which came one month after Omar suffered his first career defeat.
This arena holds a special place in Figueroa’s heart, having won the WBA interim junior featherweight title in an 8th round knockout of Yonfrez Parejo in April 2019. He was eventually upgraded to “World” champion though still secondary to WBA “Super titlist Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0. 7KOs).
It becomes a moot point. Figueroa now holds the WBC belt and has a chance to add the WBO strap when he faces defending champ Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8KOs) on September 11. Fulton will be the favorite heading into the bout, though Figueroa is already used to that as the majority of industry insiders pegged Nery to prevail.
“We’ve been waiting a while for this fight. I knew that to get to September we had to get through this fight with Luis Nery. I envisioned that I was going to beat Luis Nery and I envision that I'm going to fight Stephen Fulton. Let's get it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox