Brandon Figueroa felt by the third or fourth round Saturday night that he had destroyed Luis Nery’s will.
By then, Figueroa figured Nery realized that he didn’t have the conditioning or the determination to deal with the fearless Figueroa’s relentless attack. In the seventh round, Figueroa nailed Nery with a left uppercut to the body that sent Nery to the canvas.
The former WBC super bantamweight and bantamweight champion couldn’t beat referee Thomas Taylor’s count. Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) produced the most impressive victory of his career and earned his place in a 122-pound title unification fight against unbeaten WBO champion Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) on September 11.
“I feel like I broke him down mentally and physically,” Figueroa told BoxingScene.com. “I made sure that he knew that he was in there with a real fighter, that he knew he wasn’t gonna go home with that belt. That’s basically what I established inside that ring.”
After a few rounds, Figueroa knew Nery’s questionable wind wouldn’t withstand his persistent pressure.
“That’s when he realized that he didn’t have any air, he didn’t have what it takes to beat me,” Figueroa said. “And I feel that’s what got to him the most. And I just went and muscled through him, overpowered him, out-worked him and out-landed him.”
Their scheduled 12-round fight for Nery’s WBC belt and Figueroa’s WBA world championship was close on the scorecards when Figueroa’s uppercut abruptly ended it in the seventh round.
The 24-year-old Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, led 58-56 on judge Zachary Young’s scorecard. Judge Lou Moret credited Figueroa for winning only one of the first six rounds, though, and had Nery in front 59-55.
Judge Edward Hernandez Sr. had it even through six rounds (57-57).
Regardless, Figueroa feels Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) paid a punishing price for underestimating him.
“What I did to Nery, a lot of people didn’t expect it from me,” Figueroa said. “Nery has been in there with great fighters and he was a champion at 118 for a reason, and a champion at 122 for a reason as well. Just for me to go out there and do what I did, I don’t think people will underestimate me now. It just establishes that I can fight and that I’m fighting these top-level fighters and I’m stopping them in seven rounds. That speaks a lot.”
Fulton predicted Figueroa would win a close decision against Nery, but Figueroa was confident he would win by knockout.
“I knew that I was gonna go out there and do what I did,” Figueroa said. “I love to fight, and I felt like there was more hunger in me to win than Nery and I went out there and proved that. I know people doubted me for whatever reason and I just went out there and showed them that I can fight, and I don’t play games.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.