On paper, this Saturday’s junior welterweight clash between Omar Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KOs) and Antonio DeMarco (31-5-1, 23 KOs) at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas looks to be a mismatch.
Not too long ago, the 25-year-old Figueroa of Weslaco, Texas was regarded as one of the best young fighters in the game and a virtual child prodigy in the art of all-offense fighting. 29 year-old DeMarco of Los Mochis, Mexico, on the other hand, has lost two in a row and has been written off by most as damaged goods. One look at the Paddy Power online betting odds verifies this fact, listing Figueroa as a huge 1/18 favorite to beat his rival.
But as we’ve all come to learn the hard way in boxing, fights are not fought on paper. And in this particular case, believe it or not, a jaw-dropping upset may not be as far-fetched as the pundits would have you believe.
Sure, the essence of “Panterita” Figueroa is still there. He’s tough, durable, and offense-minded. But there’s something missing, something that’s been missing for at least two years already. The former lightweight world titlist now seems a touch slower and a smidgen more unsure of himself. He’s not the brawler who waded into opposition like a human threshing machine, breaking foes down with relentless pressure. Recently, like in his May bout with faded former world titlist Ricky Burns, Figueroa has been more calculated and self-aware—aggressive enough, but more tentative than before. It’s hard to put one’s finger on it, but this just isn’t the same Figueroa anymore.
Chalk up the change for the worse to chronic hand injuries, years of having to struggle to make weight, and a propensity for being cut. Maybe the decline began after his draining all-out war with Japan’s Nihito Arakawa or his demoralizing split decision win over rival Jerry Belmontes– a victory many felt should’ve belonged to Belmontes. Perhaps, all of these reasons have converged to make Figueroa old before his years.
Whatever the case, Saturday’s opponent, DeMarco hopes to catch a declining, but overconfident Figueroa daydreaming of future big money junior welterweight fights.
The rangy Mexican battler has a far more humble record than his opponent, but four of his five career losses have come against world champion-level opposition gifted with tremendous physical tools. Tough, but not uniquely talented, DeMarco has fallen to the hard-fisted destructive talents of Edwin Valero and to the speed and precision of Adrien Broner, Jessie Vargas, and Rances Barthelemy. In all four losses the common element has been speed and DeMarco’s lack thereof. Against Figueroa, DeMarco will be facing someone not much more talented than him and certainly not gifted with any sort of world class ring speed. Stylistically, this is the type of opposition DeMarco wants and against which he can utilize his own offensive skills.
For the record, the Los Mochis native has referred to “personal problems” affecting recent performances and worked to resolve those issues by moving his entire base of operations for this fight to Las Vegas, where he now claims to be very much “at peace.”
Size may also factor into this contest as Figueroa will be just two fights into his junior welterweight campaign while DeMarco, the taller fighter, has fought exclusively at 140 lbs. or higher since 2013, with three of his last five fights actually contested as a welterweight. DeMarco may be able to absorb and withstand more of Figueroa’s best shots and, consequently, could be considered the hardest puncher the young Texan has ever faced.
Make no mistake about it, though, Figueroa should beat DeMarco. Even taking into consideration everything mentioned in this piece, Figueroa is still the better all-around fighter and, perhaps more importantly, the “money” fighter with the home state advantage and the full backing of adviser Al Haymon’s PBC series. However, if you’re a betting man or woman, this may certainly be worth a wager—an upset would not be very shocking at all.
Omar Figueroa vs. Antonio DeMarco headlines Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBC, Saturday December 12 from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas with televised coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.