2023 has already been a tremendous year for action fights inside the boxing ring. Brandon Figueroa figures he'll add to the fast-growing list of Fight of the Year contenders on Saturday when he clashes with Mark Magsayo for the interim WBC featherweight championship (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET).
"This could be another Fight of the Year candidate," Figueroa said at a media day ahead of the fight. "I'm ready to show off my skills. The fans love when I fight because they know it's never boring. I want to fight the best of the best and keep proving to everyone that I belong at this level."
His assessment is not inaccurate. Figueroa is capable of producing thrilling action, working in hard blitzes on the inside and constantly pressuring opponents. That style helped Figueroa produce one half of one of the best fights of 2021, a thrilling battle with Stephen Fulton Jr. that cost Figueroa his 122-pound championship.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
After the narrow decision loss to Fulton, Figueroa made the move up to featherweight, picking up a sixth-round TKO over Carlos Castro in July 2022. Now, he looks to establish himself as a player in the new division and set up a clash with WBC champion Rey Vargas, who will be returning to featherweight after a failed bid to win the vacant super featherweight title in February.
Standing in Figueroa's way is another solid action fighter in Magsayo.
Magsayo is aiming to use a win over Figueroa to force a rematch with Vargas. The pair first met in July 2022, with Vargas taking a split decision and winning the WBC belt one fight after Magsayo won it with a majority decision over Gary Russell Jr.
The loss to Vargas was the first time Magsayo had tasted defeat as a professional. He has not competed since losing the title.
Just like Figueroa, Magsayo is predicting an action-packed battle on Saturday.
"The winner of this fight is going to be the fans," Magsayo said at a media event. "I'm coming back stronger than ever. I've been training since October for this fight and it's been great. I've been doing a lot of rounds in sparring. This is going to be a great fight."
The undercard features the return of a former junior middleweight champion in Jarrett Hurd. The Maryland native has been out of action since a June 2021 loss, his second in three fights, as he looks to rebound in a new weightclass. Hurd has fought just once a year since 2018 and hopes 2023 can be the start of a new winning streak when he faces off against Armando Resendiz.
Let's take a look at the rest of the card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before getting to a prediction and pick on the main event.
Figueroa vs. Magsayo fight card, odds
Bandon Figueroa -300
Mark Magsayo +240
WBC interim featherweight title
Jarrett Hurd -470
Armando Resendiz +360
Elijah Garcia -130
Amilcar Vidal +110
Magsayo has heavy hands and can certainly connect cleanly enough to knock most men out. Figueroa's chin has been otherworldly in his career, however, and even at a higher weight, there's an expectation he remains able to absorb damage and work to the pocket where he does his best work.
Figueroa also is the bigger and longer man, which could come in handy if he decides to force periods of mid-range action before pushing forward into periods of phone booth brawling. Magsayo has struggled at times with fighters who are of a slightly lower quality than Figueroa while Figueroa has gone toe-to-toe with a supremely talented fighter like Fulton.
Look for Figueroa to take his time breaking Magsayo down before forcing a late stoppage through near-constant body work and power shots while absorbing a bit of return fire from Magsayo in return. Pick: Brandon Figueroa via TKO9