The "Heartbreaker" remains unbeaten, adding the WBC World Super Bantamweight title to his WBA strap with a stunning TKO victory Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
The baby blue eyes had ugly welts over each. The same baby blues that other fighters used to mock when they faced Brandon “The Heartbreaker” Figueroa. Always behind those baby blues was an edge.
That edge surfaced Saturday night when Figueroa pulled off an upset by capturing the WBC World Super Bantamweight title by stopping Luis Nery at 2:18 of the seventh round on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing in a Premier Boxing Champions event from the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
With the win, Figueroa, who also owns the WBA “regular” strap, sets up a unification showdown on September 11 with WBO World Super Bantamweight Champion Stephen Fulton.
At the time of the stoppage, Nery was ahead 59-55 on judge Dr. Lou Moret’s scorecard and 58-56 according to judge Zachary Young. Judge Edward Hernandez Jr. had it 57-57.
It was the biggest victory against his toughest opponent to date for Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs).
“This feels amazing, it’s a dream come true ever since I was seven years old, and I’m here living it,” Figueroa said. “I know everyone doubted me. But here I am with the belts. We just took it to him. That was the plan, to break him. Joe Diaz told me to put pressure on him, he wasn’t going to last.
“I knew he was getting tired. He was trying to box me. I knew he wasn’t going to stay in there and bang with me. The pressure was getting to him. The body shots were getting to him. I envisioned I was going to beat Nery and I envisioned I was going to beat Stephen Fulton.”
Within the first :30 of the fight, Figueroa switched from righty to lefty. With :25 left in the first, Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) gained Figueroa’s attention with his trademark overhand left on the temple. Figueroa fell, though referee Thomas Taylor ruled it a slip.
In the second, Nery received a warning from Taylor for not breaking properly. Figueroa, who at 5-foot-8 was three inches taller than the 5-5 Nery, yet kept closing in and fighting inside, which was supposedly much more Nery’s fight.
Nery and Figueroa crowded each other in the first 20 seconds of the third. They both threw a lot of punches, though many missed. In the third, they combined to throw more than 80 punches. Neither fighter held a distinct advantage.
Figueroa opened the first minute of the fourth with his best sequence yet, pounding Nery against the ropes. With :46 left in the fourth, Figueroa popped Nery with a right to the face. Nery’s left eye started showing signs of swelling. Figueroa dropped a left to the body to open the fifth.
Nery started to get up on his toes in the latter portion of the fifth to keep Figueroa off of him and popped Figueroa with a right in the closing seconds of the round.
For a brief spell in the sixth, Figueroa slapped a few shots off of Nery in the corner. When Figueroa fought as a lefty, he appeared to be more effective. He used distance to a few punches off of Nery to close the round.
As the seventh opened, Nery appeared to be tiring. He was unable to keep Figueroa away from him. With :53 left in the seventh, Nery went down for the fourth time in his career from a Figueroa left to the body, just under the chest, and couldn’t get up.
Daniel Roman proves he’s still dangerous
Daniel Roman threw left uppercuts, threw right uppercuts, and it all amounted into a brilliant unanimous 10-round super bantamweight victory over the insistent Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs).
The 31-year-old Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) is looking for another title shot, after holding the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles.
“I knew Ricardo Espinoza is a tough fighter and hits hard,” Roman said. “I started getting my distance and I started fighting my fight (in the seventh and eighth rounds). I started controlling the ring. After the eighth round, I thought he was going to go down. He showed a lot of heart.”
In the opening rounds, Roman and Espinoza could not get out of the way of each other. Roman used Espinoza’s aggressiveness against him. Each time Espinoza closed, Roman touched him to the body or the head. Roman appeared to buckle Espinoza with a left with :03 left in the third.
By the middle rounds, Roman’s body attack began to zap Espinoza. A Roman right uppercut snapped back Espinoza’s head with 1:53 left in the eighth. It didn’t matter, Espinoza continued coming forward. What couldn’t get lost in Roman’s offense is he only had 10 stoppages entering the bout. Still, Espinoza’s face was covered with a crimson blotch after the eighth and his white trunks took on a pinkish hue.
In opening minute of the ninth, the two stood in the middle of the ring and traded. But it was Espinoza’s face that was getting busted up and referee Edward Collantes was taking a close look.
Xavier Martinez overcomes Juan Carlos Burgos
In a WBA super featherweight title eliminator, rising star Xavier Martinez (17-0, 11 KOs) won a unanimous 10-round decision over the tough Juan Carlos Burgos by 99-91 (3) scores. The decision was greeted with a cascade of boos, but the right fighter won.
“It was good having tests like this, all of these tough fights help me get better,” Martinez said. “I felt I could have done better, but I felt I was landing the cleaner, harder shots the whole time. I showed I can hang in there with a tough opponent.
“It wasn’t that close. I could give him a round or two. There was a round or two where I stepped back too much. Even when he was throwing, I was catching and slipping.”
The 23-year-old Martinez, who came off the canvas twice to win his previous fight, got into an early war with 17-year veteran Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs). In the opening 20 seconds of the second round, the two traded bombs, with Martinez counter punching off the ropes and Burgos going to the body.
They kept their frenetic pace up in the third and fourth. But as time wore on, Martinez’s blows began to make more of an impact on Burgos. The question began to surface, could Burgos continue to take the punishment, considering his shopworn body?
Burgos, who took the fight on short notice as a late replacement, and Martinez combined to throw 1,721 punches over the 10 rounds. But it was Martinez’s accurate punching and work rate that made the overall difference.
Off TV, lightweight Jose Valenzuela (8-0, 4 KOs) stopped Nelson Hampton (7-4, 4 KOs) in the first round of a scheduled eight-rounder. Super flyweight Gabriela Fundora, the younger sister of Sebastian “Towering Inferno” Fundora, made her successful pro debut with a four-round victory over Jazmin Valverde Medina (2-2, 2 KOs). Lightweight Justin Cardona (5-0, 3 KOs) stopped James De Herrera (4-7, 3 KOs) in the first round of a scheduled four-rounder.
For a closer look at Nery vs Figueroa, check out our fight night page.