On last week’s Tough Talk Tuesday, The Heavy Bag team spoke with WBC Interim Lightweight Champion, Omar “Panterita” Figueroa. He discussed topics varying from his fight of the year candidate battle with Nihito Arakawa, his reason for dropping out of school, his view on Mayweather, his passionate fans, and what we can expect from him in the near future. This is what he had to say.
Heavy Bag Team- Welcome to Tough Talk Tuesday Omar, how’s it going?
Omar Figueroa- Good, can’t complain.
Heavy Bag Team- Congratulations on one hell of a fight against Arakawa, regardless of the scores, its got to be a nominee for fight of the year.
Omar Figueroa- Well that’s what we’ve been hearing, I mean, I just fight, whatever happens is completely up to the fans and their liking. It does give me some validation, that they’re doing that for me. It feels good to know that that fight is viewed as one of the best fights of the year, you know, especially being that there have been other great fights, so you know its just a big honor. I feel blessed to even be considered in that category.
Heavy Bag Team- Yeah definitely, considering the only one that would really come close to that would be Bradley against Provodnikov, which was a hell of a fight too.
Heavy Bag Team- How did you feel after the fight? Did it take a toll on you?
Omar Figueroa- Well physically yeah, obviously any fight takes a toll on you because of the training and everything that goes into the fight. Mentally I think it gave me a lot more than it took away. I think it gave me even more confidence, you know, knowing I can go in there and go 12 hard rounds and land bombs, and you know even through adversity with having hurt my hands. I proved a lot to myself. Fighters like to say we’re our own worst critics. One thing is to talk the talk, the other is to walk the talk, and I always said I was ready to give it all, leave it all in the ring for my fans. And I think I proved it in that fight. I fought with hurt hands, I had never been 12 rounds, and it was a lot of adjusting and a lot of mental fortitude that it took for me, but I feel like at the end I prevailed. I came out even stronger than I did when I started.
Heavy Bag Team- I see that you had previously attended Texas A&M University that you dropped for boxing full time. What actually motivated you to leave school to pursue boxing?
Omar Figueroa- Well I wasn’t very big on school to begin with, I have a very philosophical approach to everything I do. I feel like school can be sometimes a waste of time, because of the way they teach. I think that knowledge is power. I think learning is great, but I feel sometimes the way they go about it is in a cookie cutter kind of way. You know everyone is different. We’re all individuals, we’re all unique, and we all learn our own way. I feel like the way they teach sometimes is not the best way for all of us. I feel like some styles of teaching would benefit some students over others. So I never liked school to begin with. I thought it was dumb that we had to learn about Chemistry and Calculus and I never really planned on using that. You know what I mean? I mean I guess for me it was more pointless because I always felt I was going to do boxing. So I felt like school was pointless, and it was hard for me to feel motivated, when I knew in the back of my mind, I wasn’t going to end up doing school. But everyone is different like I said, I always tried to implement school and the importance of school on my brothers.
Heavy Bag Team- In your boxing career, how influential is your family, in particular your father, into molding who you are as a boxer?
Omar Figueroa- If we were a tri-pod, they’d be the other legs. I don’t think I’d be anywhere near where I’m at if it weren’t for them. Especially my dad. It’s a father-son relationship, we have our ups and downs and you know we gith and stuff, but I wouldn’t be were I’m at without him.
Omar Figueroa- In the end we are a tight knit family and we know it was a team effort. Even though my mother wasn’t directly involved when it came to boxing, she took care of all the stuff outside of boxing. You know I feel it takes everything, you have to be a well rounded in order to, I guess, be successful in boxing and be successful in a good way and not behave like a clown. You know what I mean? Like looking like a decent human being while doing something good with yourself. I feel like we all took a part in that, and I feel they are what drives me when it comes to boxing, my family, my daughter, they are what drives me.
Heavy Bag Team- One thing your father has mentioned to us, was he’s very big on having a good amateur career and a good amateur background. How do you feel that that background has helped mold you in your career?
Omar Figueroa- I don’t think I got to 50 fights here in the US, but I had a lot of fights in Mexico, almost 200 fights over there, yeah getting close to 200 fights over there, and over there they were three minute rounds. You know, three, three minute rounds. So that’s why since I started there, I developed more of a pro style. I was kind of sluggish in the beginning and I would pick my shots, and move around and use defense. That’s why I would lose a ot of fights in US, I developed that style and brought it with me here to the US, where it was three one minute rounds. The kids would come out and just throw punches in bunches, There was no style. There was no technique. There was no anything, they just threw punches and it took me a while to adapt and that’s why I lost fights, because I was barely warming up by the time the fight was already over. But I always knew Pro was going to be my thing. And Like I said, I implement that into my brothers, I try to instill that this is all experience, this is like going to Middle School or going to High School. This is like going to College, to prepare you for the real world. You have to have some sort of amateur career.
You know what also helped me a lot is the sparring. I sparred anyone, anywhere, any time. I never said no to sparring, because it was like having a scrimmage. I just feel that it is important, like I said, its like studying for a test, if you don’t do amateur, you not going to be prepared, if you don’t do amateur, you not going to be prepared for the Pros. So it just makes it that much easier when you have a good amateur background.
Heavy Bag Team- Any names that we would know, or anybody big that we would know that you have sparred with?
Omar Figueroa- The main one, the one I feel has helped me the most is Edwin Valero, may he rest in peace. I feel like he is one of the most influential people, was one of the most influential people in my life. Like I said, I have already sparred with guys high and low, and heavier and lighter. Every kind of guy out there. I had already sparred Amir Khan, I had already sparred Brandon Rios. I’d sparred some more guys in California. I had a pretty good resume under my belt. But when I sparred Valero, it was a completely different thing. That was world class. I feel like that was the epitome of world class. I saw how hard he worked, I saw how hard he ran, I saw how he ran. He was insane when it came to working out, the condition he had and the power he had. I feel like if he couldn’t really hurt me, or get rid of me in the times we sparred, because I was over there for like a month and we would spar like every day. If he couldn’t really do anything to me, that just gave me confidence to go in the ring with whoever I get in the ring with and just got toe to toe. I know they’re not going to hurt me.
Heavy Bag Team- Was there anything in particular advice when sparring with Valero that you still hold to this day?
Omar Figueroa- Yeah, he told me that if I. Well actually no, he just told me straight up. Your going to be a world champion, and there is no one out there at 135 or near weight divisions that will beat you. He told me straight up, we were riding back to the hotel from a sparring session.
Heavy Bag Team- Speaking on your last fight, you kind of said it earlier, how you hurt both hands. Were they a problem going into the fight, or was it just something in particular during the fight that caused the injuries?
Omar Figueroa- No I’ve actually had problems with my hands before. I hurt them actually a few months after turning pro. I hurt them during sparring, it had never before been a bother until I turned pro. A couple months after I was sparring a guy, I hit’em on top the head and my left hand started giving me problems. And it wasn’t until 2 years ago that my right hand started bruising as well. So after that its just random, like I don’t know if it’s the wrapping, I don’t think it’s the wrapping, because Joel Diaz does a great job wrapping my hands, but I think it was maybe the gloves that I wore this time cause I changed it up. But yeah it had already been a problem before, it hadn’t bothered in a long time actually, it had been maybe a year or more that I hadn’t had problems.
Heavy Bag Team- Do you think you’re the next Mexican American Superstar?
Omar Figueroa- See I don’t really like to think to much about that, but the only thing I can promise my fans and my future fans, and whatever fans I have lost, or the haters, is that I’m always going to give 110% regardless of the outcome, I do not care.
Omar Figueroa- If it were me fighting Mayweather, if Canelo would have just given it a little thought. Because I’ve heard from a lot of people that they were disappointed, they feel like he just gave up. Like he just went in there for the money, and I mean don’t know if its true, I don’t know whats goin through his head. If that was me. It’s kind of a win-win with Mayweather. Especially Canelo at his age, its like me. If I had the opportunity to fight Mayweather, you know, I don’t feel like I could lose. Even if I lost, because its Mayweather, he’s the pound for pound best of the world. He beat Oscar. He beat Ortiz. He beat everyone he faced regardless of who they were, even if some were close calls, he’s undefeated. He’s the number one guy in the world or in history or whatever the hell you want to call it. I may not think so, but that’s what he’s categorized at.
Omar Figueroa- I’m gonna go in there and I’m gonna give it all I have. Regardless of the outcome, whether he runs or not, I’m gonna chase him until I land a freakin punch on him, but at least that’s the mentality that I have. I’m not gonna go in there and try to box the best boxer in the world. First off, personally that’s why I think Canelo was a perfect choice for him, Canelo had a good thing going. He had just beat Trout who, including myself, a lot of people thought Trout was going to win that fight, but he surprised me, he looked good. But at the same time, your talking about Mayweather. I would have gone in there and I would have just thrown my heart out regardless. I would have just tried to land one punch on him. I would’ve chased him down the whole time, and showed that I wanted to win that fight. Cause it did look like Canelo just kind of gave up at the end. Like thinking Ok I’m not gonna hit this guy, I’m already gonna get paid regardless. I’m already here might as well not get hurt, or not get hit, or not get knocked down, or knocked out. And I feel that’s what happened. And me, I don’t care if I get knocked down, or get hit, or I get knocked out, I’m gonna go in there and I’m going to try to punish my opponent as much as possible.
Heavy Bag Team- Being a younger hungrier fighter, you feel you can just go in there and show your aggression?
Omar Figueroa- Especially when you are fighting Mayweather cause he does not care how boring he makes a fight, the less he gets hit, the better for him. That’s his style, and knowing that, you have to make the fight. You have to look like you want to win the fight. Especially if you have a weight advantage. He had a weight advantage, he’s younger, he’s at the prime of I guess his physical standing, and he didn’t use any of his advantages. He could’ve bullied Mayweather, Canelo was the bigger guy. He could have bullied him and used his brute force to try and do something different, and he didn’t do that. Like I said, I guess I’m that type of fighter, even if I were to fight Mayweather I feel like I would give a way better fight than Canelo did, at least entertainment wise.
Heavy Bag Team- Do you see any disadvantages in being an aggressive fighter? Have you talked to your trainers and have you discussed maybe getting a little more defense minded in the future?
Omar Figueroa- I don’t think so. It’s worked for us so far. A lot of people thought or think I got beat up in my last fight, but I really didn’t. It was more aesthetic than anything. But if you think about it, in reality, I honestly don’t see many fighters taking the kind of beating Arakawa did. I think he took an inhumane amount of punches and he just kept going. I don’t know, I said it before, I think he was superhuman that night. Because I know how hard I hit. We all know how hard I hit. My coaches see me during sparring, I’m hurting guys, I’m breaking their ribs. I’m knocking them out with 18 ounce gloves. And heavier guys that I’m hurting bad during sparring. I come to fight with 8 ouncers with a guy that my weight, and I can’t put him away. So it was just unbelievable.
Heavy Bag Team- Do you feel in the future your going to have another fight that all your fans are going to look at as the best fight they have ever seen?
Omar Figueroa- I don’t see why not, you know. If that’s the kind of fight I have to fight to win, then that’s the kind of fight I’m going to fight. I’m not going to sell myself short, definitely not going to disappoint my fans when they are expecting me to give my best. I know because I started here in my hometown. We are right across the border, and a lot of people here are living day to day and they still go to the fights. They are that passionate about boxing. I feel that its my duty to give that to them. To give them the best of me, because they’re doing everything in their power to support. They’re spending their hard earned money, they are sacrificing things for their family in order to go watch me fight. So I feel that I have to go do that for them. I feel I am obligated to do that for them, maybe that just me, maybe it’s a stupid way of thinking when you think about it business wise, the way a lot of people thing, money wise. I feel they show their true passion doing that for me and they supported me from the beginning at the local shows. Even for them 20 dollars was hard to come by, and they still go support me, they still try to buy a t-shirt. That’s why I feel, yeah, If that’s the kind of fight I have to fight, that’s the kind of fight I’m going to fight.
Heavy Bag Team- Saw on twitter you were getting into it with John Molina. I know you don’t make your own fights, you let your team work that out, but is that a fight you are interested in?
Omar Figueroa- I don’t care, I don’t care who I fight, you know? My dad knows that even when it comes to sparring , I’ve never said no, I’ve never said no to a fight. I don’t care who I fight. If my team thinks I’m ready for John Molina, if my team thinks I’m ready for Juan Diaz, or even if my team thinks I’m ready for Mayweather and that’s the fight that they’re getting me. Then that’s the fight I’m gonna take. It’s kind of annoying, he keeps telling me, and I don’t know if that’s what he’s trying to do to annoy me, or I don’t know what his point is, it doesn’t bother me but I don’t know how many times I have to tell you. I don’t make my fights. Yes I may be the boss, or the business, but I have a team for a reason. I have my dad and I have Joel Diaz, and I have Golden Boy, and I have Al Haymon for a reason. I’m not paying them to just sit there and look pretty while I make all the decisions. They do their jobs and obviously they are doing a good job.
Heavy Bag Team- When can we expect you back?
Omar Figueroa- I’m looking at February or March, early March or late February. Anytime around or after that I’m good. I’m hoping after New Years hopefully my hands are 100% and I can get back in the ring.
Hector “El Torito” Gomez @hector_gomez810