The only birthday wish sought by Julio Ceja is to blow out the candles on Brandon Figueroa’s title reign. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
Fight week activities will trump any plans of Mexico’s Ceja (celebrating his 27th birthday on Monday, as he looks ahead to his title fight showdown versus Texas’ Figueroa (20-0, 15KOs), the unbeaten reigning junior featherweight titlist. Their scheduled 12-round clash takes place Saturday evening on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View, in supporting capacity to the heavyweight title fight rematch between Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs) and Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; 2NCs) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"I'm focused on what I have to do,” Ceja (32-4, 28KOs) told BoxingScene.com ahead of his attempt at becoming a two-time junior featherweight titlist. “I know that [Figueroa] is not an easy opponent, but I’m confident that I have what it takes to win this weekend.
“I’m not worried at all about this fight. He has everything to lose and I am going to leave it all in the ring to make sure I return to Mexico as the champion of the world.”
Ceja claimed an alphabet title in an off-the-canvas 5th round knockout of countryman Hugo Ruiz in their Aug. 2015 shootout. His title reign was short lived, suffering a knockdown and a freak ankle injury in a 1st round stoppage versus Ruiz in their Feb. 2016 rematch.
Similar circumstances surrounded the first of two straight losses which precede Saturday’s showdown versus Figueroa, who attempts the first defense of his recently upgraded title. A broken nose ended his night in a May 2018 clash versus Franklin Manzanilla, having dominated the fight to that point but was ordered to remain on his stool prior to the start of the 5th round. It was a bittersweet ending to a modest two-fight win streak which included a 3rd round knockout of faded former bantamweight titlist and future Hall of Fame candidate Anselmo Moreno.
More than a year after the fluke loss to Manzanilla came the opportunity of a lifetime, when Ceja faced Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux in an officially sanctioned alphabet title eliminator but also for Rigondeaux’s lineal junior featherweight championship which he claimed in an April 2013 win over Nonito Donaire. Ceja was well on his way to claiming such status, up on the scorecards after seven rounds only to get caught in round eight, with Rigondeaux scoring a bailout knockout, only to since decide to drop down to bantamweight where he will face Liborio Solis for a vacant secondary title.
Enough was thought of Ceja’s performance to grant him one more title shot, one for which he puts everything on hold in hopes of combining a birthday celebration with that of aimed-for status as a two-time champ.
"I had the support of (career-long promoter) Promociones del Pueblo and the Mexico City government and am eager to get into the ring in honor of all those who have stood behind me,” notes Ceja. “I am so thrilled with the thought once again become (junior featherweight) champion of the world.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox