Justin Figueroa spent some time this week watching footage of the legendary trilogy between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.
It inspired Figueroa for his four-round fight Saturday night against Jeremiah Kendrick at Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, where Figueroa was raised and resides. The 23-year-old Figueroa’s career is in its infancy, but the junior middleweight wants to help bring boxing back in a bigger way to his hometown, the South Jersey oceanside city where Ward and Gatti contested the last two of their three fights at Boardwalk Hall in November 2002 and June 2003.
“That’s the plan,” Figueroa told BoxingScene.com. “It’s going very well right now. I sold $17,000 in tickets for my pro debut and I’ve sold over $10,000 in tickets for this fight, too, so the ticket sales are going very well. I can’t complain. I’m very thankful for everyone showing love. I think Atlantic City is right with me. I’m trying to put Atlantic City on my back. They’re showing love.
“I’m well known around here and it’s paying off. I would like to fill the shoes of Arturo Gatti, who was one of my favorite fighters growing up. I’m just trying to make this dream come true by working hard every day and taking one fight at a time.”
Figueroa, who had approximately 40 amateur fights, turned his attention back to boxing four years ago after playing running back and defensive for Holy Spirit High School in nearby Absecon. He had 10 fights in 2021, which convinced Figueroa to turn pro earlier this year.
Jolene Mizzone worked with the late Gatti during her long career at Main Events. She is president of boxing operations for Fighters First Management, which signed Figueroa.
Figueroa (1-0, 1 KO) knocked out Tavaris Smith (0-6), of Toledo, Ohio, in the first round of his pro debut August 20 at Boardwalk Hall. He expects a similar result when he faces Philadelphia’s Kendrick (1-2, 1 KO) on a card organized by Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna’s Rising Stars Promotions.
“I’m definitely excited to showcase my skills Saturday,” Figueroa said. “I’ve been training real tough, training real hard. I’m still excited from the first win that I got, so I’m looking forward to coming out, fighting in front of my home crowd, getting that spark of energy from the crowd and performing to the best of my ability. And I’m looking for knockout number two, if I’m being honest.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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