SAN ANTONIO – Brandon Figueroa acknowledged after his technical knockout of Carlos Castro on Saturday night that he wants to fight Rey Vargas next.
The feeling, at least for now, isn’t mutual.
Vargas gave Figueroa credit for his performance against Castro, but he doesn’t think facing Figueroa in his first featherweight title defense would make much business sense for him. The newly crowned WBC champion instead called for a 126-pound title unification fight against Leo Santa Cruz, who owns the WBA “super” title.
Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs), like Vargas, is a former WBC 122-pound champion.
He dropped a competitive Castro (27-2, 12 KOs) in the third round and stopped him during the sixth round of a 12-round WBC featherweight elimination match that Showtime televised from Alamodome. Phoenix’s Castro was still on his feet, but he wasn’t punching back when referee Mark Nelson stepped between them to halt the action at 2:11 of the sixth round.
The 25-year-old Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, made his debut as a full-fledged featherweight in Showtime’s co-feature Saturday night.
Mexico’s Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) won the WBC 126-pound championship in the main event, in which he beat previously undefeated Filipino Mark Magsayo (26-1, 14 KOs) by split decision. Vargas got off the canvas from a ninth-round knockdown and out-pointed Magsayo on two scorecards (115-112, 115-112, 113-114).
“I’m not underestimating anybody,” Vargas said during his post-fight press conference. “It’s not that I don’t wanna fight Figueroa, because he proved today how capable he is. It’s just the fact that I need to look up. I need to fight against fighters of the same caliber that I have. It’s not that Brandon Figueroa is not the same caliber. I’m not saying that. It’s just that with Brandon right now, I would have much more to lose than I would have to gain.”
Defeating Castro hasn’t established Figueroa as the mandatory challenger for Vargas’ title. Figueroa wasn’t ranked at featherweight by the WBC entering his fight with Castro because he hadn’t boxed at the featherweight limit prior to Saturday night.
Regardless, Vargas was Magsayo’s mandatory challenger, thus he should have the flexibility to pursue a unification fight with Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs) or make an optional defense of his title when he returns to the ring.
“My job is just to train and fight,” Figueroa said. “And whoever they put in front of me, that’s my goal. And obviously, I wanna be crowned champion again. And hopefully that happens.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.