Featherweight has seen a lot of shake-ups in the last year or so.
Gary Russell Jr. lost, Emanuel Navarrete left, and a new trio of titlists (Rey Vargas, Luis Lopez, and Mauricio Lara) were crowned. Vargas got there by way of Mark Magsayo, the man who upset Russell, and if Brandon Figueroa is ultimately to be crowned with the WBC’s diadem in the division, his road too will have crossed with Magsayo.
Will it now lead to Vargas?
It wasn’t easy but Figueroa made it two straight wins since a grueling loss to Stephen Fulton, overcoming what appeared to be an excellent start from Magsayo in the first half to grind his way to a dominant second half.
The judges didn’t see the same start. Figueroa’s high volume offense is easy to score, and was again on Saturday with Figueroa getting nine rounds on two cards and ten on another. The funny thing about that is this wasn’t a fight where Figueroa was significantly outworking or outlanding Magsayo.
It was just enough, often enough, and two deductions for holding didn’t help Magsayo’s cause. It was, as expected, yet another fun fight in the first third of 2023. When fights look good on paper, and end up that way, the matchmakers got it right.
The matchmakers are on fire so far this year. What will the win mean for Figueroa?
Futures: For Figueroa, the question is about Vargas. Vargas moved to Jr. lightweight and failed to capture a vacant belt against O’Shaquie Foster. Vargas remains the primary WBC titlist (Figueroa won an interim strap versus Magsayo) and a clash with Figueroa would be interesting for both men. Vargas remains an awkward, crafty veteran. Could his range and size cause Figueroa problems or would the physical attack of Figueroa hand Vargas a second defeat?
It’s a fun question.
There might not be a lot of immediate unification options for Figueroa if Vargas doesn’t come back to the division. That would be a shame because Lopez or Lara versus Figueroa would be fantastic TV. So might a clash with a returning Russell if Russell returns.
The biggest fight might be a Stephen Fulton rematch, whether Fulton beats Naoya Inoue or not. It’s certainly bigger if Fulton knocks off one of the top claimants to boxing’s pound-for-pound throne first.
For Magsayo, consecutive losses will sting. He says he’s now headed to Jr. lightweight and it’s a division where there might be chances to compete for titles quickly. Jr. lightweight isn’t the deepest class in boxing right now and an opponent who has become a regular on Showtime will have appeal.
Magsayo is a solid fighter but one has to be realistic. He barely got by a one-armed Russell and may have settled in at a most frustrating level: able to compete with anyone but unlikely to win at the top level. For as long as he stays competing, it will pay better than being a guy who can’t really do that. Magsayo will make for more fun fights in the future.
Jarrett Hurd lost a hell of a fight to Jose Resendiz, giving the fans another thrilling night but for him the thrill is likely gone. Hurd had a good run for a few years but his defensive liabilities and inactivity have caught up with three losses in four fights. Hurd is the kind of fighter who might have left a larger footprint in an era where he would have fought far more often in his twenties but, with his style, the back end of life might have been harder. He’s not likely to quit but it’s not going to get easier either without dramatic changes in his approach…Elijah Garcia is one to watch. Only nineteen, his future looks bright…Angelo Fierro looked rough against a gutsy Eduardo Estela. Fierro is another exciting face in a lightweight division full of them.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
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