A critical look at the past week in boxing
Brandon Figueroa – How good is Figueroa? Really good. He told me going into his fight with Mark Magsayo on Saturday that he feels he’s still seen as an easy mark. Well, if that was once the case, it certainly isn’t now. The former 122-pound titleholder overcame a slow start against a quicker, more athletic opponent to grind him down with relentless pressure and win a wide decision, thus positioning himself for a shot at Rey Vargas’ 126-pound belt. The fact is Figueroa’s a physical freak, an unusually strong, ridiculously fit warrior who seems to be at his best when things are their most harry. Said pound-for-pounder Stephen Fulton Jr., who narrowly outpointed Figueroa: “It was a tough fight, he’s a tough person.” Ya think? I compare Figueroa to Leo Santa Cruz, another aggressive volume puncher adept at breaking down opponents. I think Figueroa (24-1-1, 18 KOs) might be more durable than Santa Cruz, though. That’s going to make him difficult to beat regardless of the opponent. Vargas could be in trouble.
Mark Magsayo – Where do I start? I guess with the fact he initially came in .8 pounds over the 126-pound limit on Friday, which was the result of either difficulty cutting weight or a miscalculation. Either way, it wasn’t a good omen. His fighting tactics were fairly effective, particularly in the first third of the fight. However, the holding became ridiculously excessive. He justifiably lost two points for it, although the deductions didn’t impact the outcome. And while he gave a decent account of himself he clearly faded in the second half of the fight. His inability to make weight might’ve played a role in that but you can be sure that the main reason was Figueroa’s incessant pressure and physical strength, which can be overwhelming. The positive? The protégé of Manny Pacquiao was quicker and more athletic than Figueroa, which allowed him to get in, do damage and get out in the early rounds. And his explosive multi-punch combinations got everyone’s attention. He’s a good fighter. He was just in with the wrong guy.
MOST QUESTIONABLE SCORING?
Figueroa-Magsayo – Sean Gibbons, Magsayo’s promoter, was livid over the scoring of the fight with Figueroa. The official scores were 118-108, 117-109 and 117-109, meaning one judge gave Figueroa 10 rounds and two gave him nine. Judge Zachary Young gave Figueroa the last nine rounds. “You cannot, no matter how you add it up, score rounds four [through] 12 for Brandon Figueroa. You just can’t do it,” Gibbons told reporters. “… This man fought his ass off. And everybody saw the fight. Even with the point deductions, [it] could’ve been 15-13, 14-14. But 17-9? No.” Said Magsayo, who left the ring without being interviewed immediately after the fight: “If I didn’t [get] the two deductions, I [thought] I’m gonna win the fight. I hit him clearly, solid punches. He feel it. He was hurt.” I agree that the scoring was too wide, although not outrageously so. I scored it 115-111 for Figueroa, seven rounds to five. And I understand that Gibbons wanted to stand up for his fighter. However, the right man won. He dominated the final nine rounds even if you give one or two to Magsayo.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Armando Resendiz – The 24-year-old Mexican chose the right time to deliver his best performance as a professional. The light heavyweight-turned-super middleweight-turned middleweight had a shaky 2021, eking out a split decision over journeyman Quilisto Madera and losing a unanimous decision to Marcos Hernandez. He bounced back to stop another journeyman, Heber Rondon, in two rounds last October, which led to a shot at former unified 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd on the Figueroa-Magsayo card. He arrived prepared. Naturally bigger and stronger than Hurd – as well as fit – he took the fight to his more heralded opponent, outworked him and was never hurt. That’s why he was well ahead on the cards when the scheduled 10-round fight was stopped after nine because of a gruesome cut on Hurd’s upper lip. Resendiz (14-1, 10 KOs) celebrated wildly afterward. Why not? He had just taken a significant step toward becoming a legitimate middleweight contender.
BIGGEST WINNER III
Elijah Garcia – Nineteen years old? Someone check Garcia’s birth certificate. The teenager from Phoenix fought with the maturity of a veteran against the more-experienced and previously unbeaten Amilcar Vidal (16-1, 12 KOs) on the Figueroa-Magsayo card, withstanding a fierce attack from Vidal and firing back in kind in an entertaining scrap. And then Garcia delivered the most dramatic moment on the televised portion of the card. He hurt Vidal with a right hook and followed with a barrage of hard shots, which put Vidal on the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss took a quick look at Vidal and decided he could not continue, which was the right decision. The fourth-round knockout was like a coming out party for Garcia (14-0, 12 KOs), who seems to have the physical tools and frame of mind to succeed in boxing. He said he wants to win a major world title by the age of 21. His performance on Saturday is an indication that anything is possible.
BIGGEST LOSER II
Jarrett Hurd – It’s probably too early to write off Hurd (24-3, 16 KOs) but he’s not in a strong position. He appeared to be a budding star going into his title defense against the talented Julian Williams in 2019. He’s 1-3 since, losing to Williams, Luis Arias and now Resendiz after returning from a 21-month layoff. He performed well enough against Resendiz to make me think he should keep trying. Maybe the long break left him rusty, which is now gone. At the same time, it seems that he doesn’t have at 160 pounds the physical advantages he had at 154. I suspect Hurd’s future in boxing will come down to his determination more than anything else. How badly does he want to regain his status as an elite fighter? Is he willing to put in the all-consuming, grueling work it will take for him to succeed? We’ll see how this plays out.