Brandon Figueroa Is Used To Being Underestimated

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The undefeated WBC World Super Bantamweight Champ plans to shock the world once again when he takes on fellow unbeaten champ Stephen Fulton in a 122-pound world title unification bout Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME.

For years, he was the little brother, always hanging around the gym trying to emulate his big brother, who was knocking people out in the boxing ring and wearing fancy championship belts around his waist. 

Little brother, Brandon Figueroa, had big dreams of his own, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Omar “Panterita” Figueroa Jr.  and maybe even surpass him on his way to becoming a legend in the sport he fell in love with as a youngster. 

Nobody seemed to notice, though, not even his dad, who was busy training his undefeated first-born son. The only ones who paid attention to young Brandon, with his long hair, blue eyes, slender frame and movie-star looks, were the young girls in the stands in Omar Sr.’s hometown of Rio Bravo, Mexico, where Omar would take his namesake to spar. The girls’ eyes would light up when Brandon walked into the place and they’d shout “Oh, my God, here comes the heartbreaker!” Voila! A nickname was born. 

Brandon held on to his dreams even though his dad did all he could to discourage the kid. “Brandon was so wimpy, so skinny, he wasn’t coordinated, nothing like Omar,” Senior explained by phone. 

Brandon says his brother was at the peak of his career back then, “and my dad’s attention was on him, taking him to fights, taking him sparring, training him,” he says. “So I basically trained myself until one day I asked him to take me to a Silver Gloves tournament back in 2007, and he said, ‘nah, you’re crazy'. My dad didn’t want me to get hit. He saw me as a fragile kid, so he didn’t want me to compete in boxing, which is a brutal sport. But seeing my older brother, having that sibling rivalry. . . I’ve always had that boiling blood, that anger. I wasn’t a troublemaker, but I always liked to fight.” 

“That’s him, all right,” Omar Sr. explained when told what his son said. “But I already had trouble with Omar, so I didn’t see any future in Brandon, honestly, because he would throw open (handed) punches, and he still does at times. 

“But I used reverse psychology with Brandon. I would tell him no you can’t make it, no you can’t beat that kid. I was using that on him so he could up his game. I’d be watching out of the corner of my eye, and Brandon would be working out, and he’d say, ‘look Dad! look Dad!’ and I wouldn’t even pay attention to him. When he was nine or 11, I put him in the ring and he was getting beat up. I wanted to bring him out and he was crying, ‘No, I want more chingasos (Spanish slang for hitting someone).’ ‘Get out, they’re whipping your ass.’ ‘No I don’t want to; throw another one in.’ So I’d put another kid in there. 

“Then at around 14, he started dropping kids to the body, and I was paying a little more attention because, well, he’s my son.” 

Fast forward a decade and “The Heartbreaker”, now 24, is living his dream. Everyone notices him now. 

He’s undefeated (22-0-1, 17 KOs), dropping grown men with sneaky powerful body shots, and is the WBC World Super Bantamweight champion. The Weslaco, Texas native, from the Premier Boxing Champions stable, faces talented WBO champ Stephen Fulton Jr. (19-0, 8 KOs) of Philadelphia in a 122-pound unification bout Saturday, November 27 at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing (10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT). Figueroa says he will move up to 126 pounds after this fight.

The fight was originally scheduled for September 18, but Figueroa tested positive for COVID-19 days before the fight. Thus, his training for this fight has spanned two camps. He has been training with the help of noted coach Joel Diaz in Indio, Calif. 

“I feel like it will definitely help me,” Figueroa says of the extra time. “Bouncing back from COVID, it was frustrating, but at the same time, I always look at the bright side. The way I left the camp was frustrating, but thank God me and my family recovered really well and we find ourselves in great health. And now we’re two weeks away (again). I’m in tremendous shape and in good spirits and good health, which is the most important thing.” 

A lot of people underestimate me solely based on my looks. Undefeated WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion - Brandon Figueroa

Family is everything to Figueroa and on fight night, he will be surrounded by family. His sister, Omayra Liliane, is his nutritionist and his strength and conditioning coach. And of course, his dad is his coach and manager. Omar Jr. will likely be present as well. 

 “The fact that my older brother is a former world champion, I’ve seen with my own eyes what a (championship) style of boxing takes. I’ve learned a lot from my older brother,” Brandon said. “We came from a lot of hardships, we overcame a lot of obstacles to get to this point, and I’m just happy and blessed to be living my dreams and being a two-time world champion fighting for another belt to become a three-time world champion. Coming from where I came from, you don’t see that a lot.” 

Though he’s accomplished so much at age 24, Figueroa calls himself a late bloomer, even in high school. 

“I was fighting at 114 (pounds) back then, I was about 5-2, and didn’t hit my growth spurt until I was going into my senior year, and I wasn’t even that tall at 5-7. It wasn’t until after high school where I grew to 5-9. And it wasn’t until I was 20 or 21 that I started to get my ‘man body’. Even now, I feel like at age 26 or 27, my body is going to finally be at its peak.” 

That’s a scary thought for those who have felt his power. Brandon has never been knocked down, even in sparring, and says the only one who’s ever hurt him with a body shot was big brother. Opponents have constantly underestimated his power and ability to take punches, he says, something that might be attributed to his blue eyes, good looks and slender physique. 

“People think I’m just a pretty face and I have a skinny frame, but my work speaks for itself. A lot of people underestimate me solely based on my looks,” Figueroa said. “They don’t consider my talent or what I bring to the table, but that’s one of the reasons I’m undefeated. Not only do I take people by surprise, but I train super, super hard, no matter what opponent is in front of me. I’ve been doing that ever since I was small to prove people wrong. Not only that but to showcase that I belong at that world-class level.” 

Omar Sr. says Fulton’s quickness and movement could give Brandon a bit of trouble.  

“He’s a skilled boxer and he’s quick. He moves, he shifts and we’re working on that. Brandon knows what to do. I think Brandon has the power to knock him out. And Fulton doesn’t have the power to knock (Brandon) out,” the trainer said. “When Brandon starts getting to his body, that’s when he’s going to know. Fulton has been hurt four or five times in his fights, and his opponents did not have the power that Brandon has. Brandon hits a lot harder, he’s tougher, he has big balls, he can take a punch and he’s not going to give you slack. If he sees you hurt, he’s going to come with everything and he’s not going to let you go. Brandon wants to get him. I tell him, ‘controlled pressure. Don’t let him get to you. Make it a rough fight but have control’.” 

Omar Sr. was more concerned about Brandon’s title unification fight against undefeated champion Luis Nery last May. But it showcased his fearlessness.  

“I told Brandon, ‘Nery is too tough for you’,” Senior said. “ ‘No, I think I can get him, Dad.’ ‘But he’s a world champion.’ 'No, I can beat him.’ So I said OK."  

Figueroa knocked Nery out in the seventh round.  

“I have confidence in my sons, obviously,” Omar Sr. said. “But there are levels, and Brandon has stepped up to another level every time. So now he wants Fulton, and now we have Fulton and we’re going to have our hands full with Fulton.”

For a closer look at Brandon Figueroa, check out his fighter page. 

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