From the aggressive styles of each fighter to the venue's spectacular reputation for producing instant classics, Saturday's 122-pound unification fight between WBC champion Luis Nery and WBA secondary titleholder Brandon Figueroa has boxing fans expecting something truly special.
Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, will be the site of this weekend's Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET). Showtime has also upped the stakes on Nery-Figueroa by announcing the winner will move directly into a second straight unification against WBO champion Stephen Fulton Jr. (19-0, 8 KOs) on Sept. 11.
"This is going to be an all-out war from the first round on," Nery said during Thursday's final press conference. "People are going to be talking about it for a long time after."
"I'm willing to put it all on the line Saturday night," Figueroa added. "I feel like this is a fight that could be fight of the year. I know everything is on the line and I'm going to go out there and make sure I give it my all."
Nery (31-0, 24 KOs), a southpaw from Tijuana, Mexico, previously lost his 118-pound title on the scale after not making weight. Yet he enters this showdown with a bit of explaining to do regarding his hard-hitting reputation following a decision win over unbeaten Aaron Alameda last September that netted him the vacant WBC title but raised questions as to whether his power carried with him up to 122 pounds.
"I think people got carried away about my performance from my last fight," Nery said. "You're going to see that my power translates on Saturday. Brandon is going to be the first person to see how my power really translates to super bantamweight."
Nery, 26, worked with red-hot trainer Eddy Reynoso, the architect behind pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez, in the Alameda fight and was far from his explosive self as he focused more on boxing. The two split ways in the aftermath, although Nery refused to elaborate on the exact reason for going back to original trainer Ismael Ramirez for this fight.
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One thing that's clear is Nery has been put off by the assertions of Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs) that he's no longer the same finisher at this weight class.
"In the ring, I'm going for the finish. Everything is on the line. I just have to prove what I'm capable of inside the ring," Nery said. "I don't care about anything else but that. Brandon's style really fits with what I want to do in the ring. I know that I can achieve everything that I want in this division and show all of my skills in this fight. This style will go better with mine than Aaron Alameda's did in my last fight."
If it's styes that truly make fights, this matchup is nothing short of perfect on paper. Nery is a stalker who looks to send his opponents packing with one punch. The 24-year-old Figueroa, on the other hand, is a nonstop volume puncher who typically forfeits his advantages in height and reach in ways that typically translate into entertaining fights.
The younger brother by seven years to Omar Figueroa Jr., a former lightweight titleholder, Figueroa fought to a split draw against Julio Ceja in 2019 before rebounding nicely last September when he stopped southpaw Damien Vazquez in Round 10 on the same pay-per-view card in which Nery defeated Alameda.
Figueroa will hold advantages over Nery in height by three inches along with nearly seven inches in reach.
"Nery is going to learn a lot about me. My size will definitely help me," Figueroa said. "I feel like he hasn't fought a guy this big, this strong and he's going to find out on Saturday night. I've trained tremendously for this fight. I have the best conditioning in the 122-pound division. My volume output speaks for itself and I feel like a lot of people underestimate me. After Saturday night, they won't.
"Once the bell rings, it's go-time and I come to fight. I come one hundred percent and I'm coming to take that belt home."
The presence of Fulton, who will be in attendance for the fight, doesn't seem to mean much to Nery.
"I'm only focused on Brandon Figueroa," Nery said. "After that fight, I'll be ready for Stephen Fulton, Jr. Once I beat him too, he can tell me how my power feels at this weight."
For Figueroa, on the other hand, it's much more personal. He and Fulton have enjoyed a war of words on social media over the past few years and Fulton has even produced t-shirts that he wore inside the ring after fights calling Figueroa out.
"Fulton is the fight I've been wanting," Figueroa said. "I know he's been talking a lot. First of all, I need to get through Luis Nery. I just can't wait for these big fights and these big names. I've been trying to fight Fulton for a while and now it's going to be made if everything goes well Saturday night. He'd be next and I can't wait to put on a show again."
Two more 122-pounders will get a featured slot in the co-main event when Danny Roman takes on Ricardo Espinosa. Roman lost the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles in January 2020 to Murodjon Akhmadaliev, but bounced back with a win over Juan Carlos Payano in September. Now, the California native believes he's one win away from getting back to title contention and potentially facing the winner of Saturday's main event and Stephen Fulton in the near future.
Fight card, odds
- Luis Nery (c) -230 vs. Brandon Figueroa +165, WBC super bantamweight title
- Danny Roman -345 vs. Ricardo Espinosa +240, super bantamweights
- Xavier Martinez vs. Juan Carlos Burgos, super featherweights
- Date: May 15
- Location: Dignity Health Sports Park -- Carson, California
- Start time: 9 p.m. ET
- How to watch: Showtime, Showtime.com or the Showtime app
Consider Figueroa a very live underdog in this one. He's bigger, throws a relentless storm of punches in volume and has some of the best cardio in the game. The native of Weslaco, Texas, seems to be built for fights like this in ways other aren't.
The biggest question comes down to whether Nery can find his aggressive ways once again after switching back to his original trainer and prove he's just as big of a menace at 122 pounds as he was when he previously destroyed the competition at bantamweight.
Regardless of the end result, this fight will be a high-paced war of attrition. Figueroa has yet to show any real chin issues at the highest level, which is important considering Nery's one-punch power. But can Nery, should he prove unable to get the stoppage, keep up that same level of aggression in the later rounds should this fight be contested at too quick of a pace?
For that reason alone, Figueroa remains one of the toughest outs at this weight class and provided he can smother Nery's power a bit by staying glued to him at close range, this is a fight he can win.
Pick: Figueroa via UD12