Prospects Joe Joyce, Efe Ajagba, Joey Spencer and Stephen Fulton all kept their records perfect with impressive victories.
Brandon Figueroa took all ten rounds Sunday night to make his big statement — but he eventually did.
Thrust into the main event, Figueroa scored the highest profile win of his career when he knocked out former interim titlist Oscar Escandon in the final round of their 10-round super bantamweight fight on PBC on FS1 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
Figueroa (17-0, 12 KOs) didn't know he was going to be the main event until midweek and had never previously headlined a televised card before. The younger brother of former titlist Omar Figueroa Jr., Brandon proved that being able to handle the bright lights might just be in his blood.
Figueroa didn't have it easy, either. The 21-year-old had never previously been past the eighth round and went nearly the full 10 after sustaining a cut midway through the fight. Escandon (25-5, 17 KOs) gave a game challenge but ultimately met his end at the end of a right uppercut from a southpaw stance from the normally orthodox Figueroa at 1:42 of the 10th round. Figueroa showcased his switch hitter abilities throughout the fight.
It was a fun fight, and it had a lot to live up to in replacing a sure fire slugfest between Victor Ortiz and John Molina as the main event. Figueroa was cut over his left eye from an accidental headbutt and fought through the blood, handling his first real test of courage with flying colors.
It was Figueroa's third fight of the year and he punctuated his 2018 with an exclamation point. Escandon had only been stopped by much more experienced opponents in the past, including in an unsuccessful title challenge against Gary Russell Jr. last year.
“Escandon is tough. He is short and it was hard to get to the body,” Figueroa said. “I can fight both inside and outside, but his size did matter. I had to get in there and he wasn’t backing up. I was ready for this fight. Opportunities like this don’t come often so I had to take it and run with it. I have been training all summer and I am ready to take a few days off and get right back to it.”
The two fighters traded on the inside with regularity from the opening bell, with Figueroa getting the better of it. That's not to say Escandon didn't make him pay to do so. In previous fights we've seen Figueroa fight mostly from the outside but fought like a guy looking to live up to the action fighter image his older brother cultivated.
Though Figueroa at times tried to make it a boxing match, he was lured into a firefight at times and made Escandon think twice about turning it into a brawl again. It was also impressive to see him get a finish in the last round — not many fighters have finishing power deep into a fight. Figueroa proved he does.
The two combatants both threw at a high rate but Figueroa often landed the cleaner and crisper shots against his more experienced opponent.
Figueroa did a good job proving he belongs in a crowded 122-pound division. Having only turned 21, there shouldn't be any rush for the fighter as he still could use some fine-tuning.
Prospects Joe Joyce, Joey Spencer, Efe Ajagba and Stephen Fulton stay perfect
English heavyweight and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce (6-0, 6 KOs) kept his perfect knockout record intact with a fifth-round stoppage of Iago Kiladze (26-4, 18 KOs) in the co-feature bout. Joyce made a statement against his toughest and most experienced foe to date, stopping him with a body shot knockout. Joyce had his man on the canvas twice before a third knockout finished things at 2:19 of the round in a successful American debut.
"It is great to be here," said Joyce. "I started training in the United States because it was the best way to start my career here," said Joyce. "It is great to have my sixth win here and I look forward to getting in the ring again soon. I think I made a great impression here tonight and I just want to continue that streak."
Also featured on the card was fast-rising star Joey Spencer (5-0, 5 KOs) of Union City, Calif. Against Cory Macon (0-3-0) of Durham, NC in a four-round middleweight bout. The 18-year-old Spencer, with dreams to become the youngest American with a world title, went to work immediately, going to the body of Macon. He continued to attack the body, but with a hard left hook, he sent Macon to the canvas, ending the fight just inside round number one at minute 2:36.
"I stay active and stay in the gym. It keeps me focused and ready," said Spencer. "My goal is to become a world champion by age 20. Fans need to keep an eye on me and my career because I am here to stay."
Efe Ajagba (7-0-0, 6 KOs) faced Nick Jones (7-1-0, 5 KOs) of Okmulgee, OK in a six-round heavyweight fight that didn't even last one round. With a hard right hand, Ajagba sent Jones to the canvas with a devastating knockout in 2:25 of the first.
"Now we know why my last opponent walked out of the ring. He was afraid that was going to happen to him," said Ajagba. "I watched tape of Jones and I knew he was slow. I was ready to attack the minute I got into the ring. I want anyone that my management will put in front of me. I am ready. I prepared for six rounds and I can't wait to get back in the ring."
In a televised swing bout, young prospect Jose Balderas (5-0-0) of Santa Maria, Calif. was tested by Mexican Ivan Martino (3-3-0, 3 KOs) in a bantamweight, but was able to get his shots off, connected with several left hooks to Martino's body.
"He is a strong guy and he kept coming, but we were ready for it," said Balderas. "I think I got the rounds he needed. I have been improving since my first fight. I am going to keep learning and keep growing."
Stephen Fulton (14-0-0, 6 KOs) of the fighting city of Philadelphia faced German Meraz (61-50-2, 38 KOs) of Mexico opened the telecast in a scheduled eight-round featherweight fight. Fulton, who took this fight with 72 hours' notice, used his jab throughout the and dominated every round. In the first minute of the eighth and final round, Fulton knocked Meraz down, setting up the win. In the end, the judges ruled the bout a unanimous decision.
"I wasn't worried about taking the fight on such short notice," said Fulton. "I knew I was going to dominate. I might have prepared for someone else, but that didn't matter. I have the experience to be able to adjust. He could have had 100 fights or five fights and I would have bene ready. I want Brandon Figueroa next."
To open the night of fights, former world champion James DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) defeated Fidel Moterrosa (39-19-1, 31 KOs) via third round KO.
For a closer look at Figueroa vs Escandon, check out our fight page.