From the Playground to the Bright Lights

This Saturday, April 26, Showtime brings boxing fans an exciting triple header featuring big punchers with mean reputations that throw leather with bad intentions. In what Showtime is calling “Heavy Hitters,” fans will be treated to an undercard bout between childhood foes Omar Figueroa and Jerry Belmontes, a co-feature between Lucas Matthysse and John Molina and a headliner that has title implications between the best unknown fighter in the game, Keith “One Time” Thurman and Julio “The Kid” Diaz.

Not only does this fight card include six fighters who like to end fights early, but it also has some fascinating storylines that could shape the outcome of each bout. And for one fighter, the idea of ‘revenge’ couldn’t be more obvious.

Omar Figueroa (22-0-1) likes to fight. He liked to fight when he was rising through the amateur ranks, and now, more than ever he is determined to defend his WBC lightweight belt against his childhood nemesis Jerry Belmontes (19-3). It is not uncommon to remember certain aspects of your childhood where you were defeated, embarrassed or made a mistake that you wish you could undo. For Figueroa the memory that will not fade involves his opponent on Saturday night and the handful of fights they have already endured against each other as young boys.

Jerry Belmontes claims to have beat Figueroa at least five times in amateur bouts while they were both young fighters trying to make their ways through the amateur circuits. According to Belmontes the victories were commonplace, always easy, and in one case comical as he claims to have made Figueroa cry. While it is common for children to cry at the onset of defeat, it is uncommon for a fighter to admit to it and allow the person who caused the tears to talk about it in public. Figueroa, who denies the claims that he was defeated five times by Belmontes plans to shut him up once and for all on Saturday night.

The paths of Omar Figueroa and Jerry Belmontes went different ways from their days as amateur fighters to well-known professionals. Belmontes, once considered the next big thing in boxing, was dropped by Top Rank years ago while Figueroa shot up the rankings and gained some public momentum for being a must-see fighter and fan favorite. While Belmontes produced some nice wins over the past year, one which included handing Australian Will Tomlinson his first loss, Figueroa became a hard-nose, toe-to-toe fighter who went to war with Nihito Arakawa in 2013 in what was a fight of the year candidate. The fight with Arakawa cost Figueroa his hands as the outcome of the brawl landed Figueroa on the sidelines for 9 months with injuries, but quickly created a buzz around the boxing media about his potential. After taking some time to heel and landing the perfect ‘revenge’ fight against Belmontes, Figueroa is primed to have an exciting start to his 2014 fight season.

If revenge is at the forefront of Figueroa’s game plan for Saturday night then he needs to be cautious when turning this fight into a brawl. Belmontes, who is always dangerous, is known as a better technician in the ring and he credits his boxing skills for his previous five victories over Figueroa. On the other side of the coin is Figueroa who has grown into a tough, pocket-puncher known for leaving it all in the ring.
The question is can Omar Figueroa maintain a cool head, use the skills he developed over his brief professional career and lean on his relentless style to overwhelm Belmontes? If ever there was a time for Figueroa to get revenge it is now – on Saturday night as the first bout on an exciting card.


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