Welterweights Omar Figueroa and Robert Guerrero have both won world titles, been television regulars and been in exciting fights, but both have largely been forgotten by the boxing public.
The reasons: Figueroa, though he is still undefeated, has not boxed in 19 months. Out of sight, out of mind. Guerrero has been out of action for 11 months and is viewed by most as a faded fighter, having lost four of his last six fights, which easily could be a rut of five losses in that span but for kind scorecards in a 2015 bout with Aron Martinez.
Both hope to push themselves back to the forefront by winning their scheduled 10-round main event on a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader Saturday (Fox/Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET with additional bouts on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 10 p.m. ET) at the newly renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The card is the first in the arena since Mike Tyson fought there in 1986.
Figueroa (26-0-1, 18 KOs), 27, of Weslaco, Texas, held a lightweight world title from 2013 to 2014 before moving up in weight. He hasn’t fought since winning a 12-round decision against former lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco in December 2015 in a fight in which he weighed a career-high 151 pounds. Now he’s boxing as a welterweight with the plan to drop down to junior welterweight. But more than weight issues, Figueroa has been plagued by hand injuries, one of the reasons he was out of action for so long.
“After my last fight I felt that I needed a break — time to be a father, a son, a brother and a friend,” he said. “I needed the time to heal my body, mind and soul. I fought with broken hands, I fought world class athletes. Having fought since I was 6, I wanted to take a break and just be human. So I took a year off to heal from the injuries, be with my family and friends, be a father and just be me.”
As for his hands, he has tried different wrapping styles, padding and various gloves. But he said what he really needed most was time to rest them.
“I’ve done some crazy stuff before,” he said. “I’ve gone to some experimental doctors before that believe in all this different kind of medicines and they’ve injected this sort of monkey blood in my hand. I’ve had acupuncture. I’ve had all sorts of crazy stuff done to my hands in the past, but that has been three, four, five years since I’ve done that. I’ve stuck to more, I guess, conventional methods, not that they didn’t work or anything. At that point when you’re desperate and you just want healthy hands, you’ll do anything to have them.”
Those brittle hands could have a rough go against the southpaw Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs), who despite the losses has never been stopped.
“We know that Guerrero is a tough guy and it’s going to be a rough fight,” Figueroa said. “I know how hard Robert Guerrero has worked to get to this point in his career. I want to prove that I can be in the big fights that Guerrero has already had. I’ve had a long time off, but I can’t wait to get it on Saturday night.”
Guerrero, 34, of Gilroy, California, has won world titles at featherweight and junior lightweight, as well as interim belts at lightweight and welterweight, and is in dire need of a victory.
“I’m expecting Omar to come to fight. He’s undefeated with a great record, so if it’s not broken, I don’t expect him to change his style,” Guerrero said. “You have to prepare for everything for a guy as awkward as Omar. I’m going to have to make adjustments in the ring. If I can stay focused, I know I can get the victory.
“I’ve made a lot of improvements since the last time people saw me. There’s way too much talent in this division for me to just come forward and press. I’m in great shape, and I’m ready to work behind my jab to do everything I need to do to be successful in the ring. I’ve said before that I had to go back to the drawing board, but this time we erased everything and rewrote it. I’m ready to turn the page to the next chapter of my career and that starts with this fight.”
Monaghan: ‘I’m ready to roll’ against Browne
In the co-feature, Long Island fan favorite Seanie Monaghan (28-0, 17 KOs), 35, takes on 26-year-old Marcus Browne (19-0, 14 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Staten Island, New York, in a 10-round light heavyweight fight that is the true draw of the show.
“I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to let my hands go and get in the ring and rumble,” said Browne, a southpaw who has sparred with Monaghan. “This is a big fight for me. It’s a great fight against a very determined and experienced fighter. Seanie is a veteran in this sport but he’s still hungry. He has a lot to lose, as do I. We’re both going to put it on the line.
Monaghan was in the running to land a world title shot against Adonis Stevenson, but when that fell apart, he took the fight with Browne and is excited to fight in front of his hometown crowd in the biggest fight of his career.
“It’s very inspiring to be looking at the place that you’ll be fighting while you’re training. I do my hardest workout on the track right across the street from the Coliseum,” Monaghan said. “It helps me dig deep while I’m suffering. This is going to be an interesting matchup. Marcus and I are pretty much opposites in the ring. I’m a righty and he’s a lefty. He’s a fast starter and I’m a strong finisher. It’s my job to turn it into a battle of wills.”
Heavyweight Szpilka returns against Kownacki
The opening fight is a 10-round all-Polish heavyweight clash between former world title challenger Artur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs), 28, and Brooklyn’s Adam Kownacki (15-0, 12 KOs), 28, who was born in Poland.
Szpilka will be fighting for the first time since suffering a brutal ninth-round knockout challenging Deontay Wilder for a world title in January 2016.
“I want to show that my loss was an accident and that I’m ready to put on a great show for the fans,” he said. “We will see how hard this fight will be. That is up to [Kownacki], because I will be ready to put it all on the line and get this win.
“I waited a long time for this return. I broke my hand after the Deontay Wilder fight, but now I am back and 100 percent ready for this fight. Adam is like I was before. He’s working his way up this sport and he’s very hungry. I respect Adam and I wish him the best, but not on Saturday night.”
Kownacki is taking on by far the most notable opponent of his career, and a victory would put him on the heavyweight map.
“This is a big stage and a great challenge for me,” Kownacki said. “Now it’s time for me to show that I’m ready for this. We’re two of the best Polish heavyweights in the world and only one of us can wear the crown.
“This is my coming-out party. I’m going to make a statement on Saturday. I’ve been patiently waiting for this chance, and now I’m going to prove that I belong.”