Weslaco, Texas' Omar Figueroa battled Nihito Arakawa in a 135 pound scrap at the AT &T Center in San Antonio, and on Showtime, and this one exceeded expectations immensely. The pace was hectic from the start to the final, fabulous round, and I don't think it fair to announce the winner, as both men deserves ample praise for their effort, which was Herculean.
This one should get Fight of the Year honors, and after twelve rounds, the judges, by scores of 118-108, 118-108, 119-107, gave Figueroa the nod.
No, those wide scores don't begin to tell the tale of the scrap, which was a classic. Yes, Arakawa took a count in the second and sixth, but he almost deserved a draw for his wall to wall balls and heart.
Arakawa spoke to Jim Gray after. He said that Figueroa was "very strong."
"Thank you very much, Texas, San Antonio," he yelled to close. If he didn't become one of your favorites after his effort, and humble decency displayed by that shoutout, then he should've.
Figueroa ( landing on the Japanese fighter in above Tom Casino-Showtime photo) said after he knew it would be twelve hard rounds. He said it was "incredible" the amount of punishment the "loser" took. The victor said he hurt his hands in the second or third round. He didn't say anything til later, because his corner noticed he wasn't as busy. "I've looked forward to a fight like this," he said. He said he didn't think it would go much past the second round, when he put Arakawa down. He gave the belt he won to his dad.
Fig, age 23, was 150 on fight night, while the Japanese boxer, age 31, was 151 on Saturday in Texas. Fig entered with a 21-0 mark and the underdog was 24-2-1. The WBC interim world title was up for grabs.
The first round was busy as all hell. The lefty Arakawa got hurt and took a knee in round two. Figgie, switching his stance, worked to the body. Arakawa didn't get on his bike, or grapple. He stood in the pocket, and banged, God bless him. A right to the top of the head buckled him, on replay.
In the third, Arakawa had Fig on the ropes, and was scoring well to the body. Fig scored well up top, with both hands, and he took the last part of the round. Blood, from a head clash, showed on Fig's nose to start the fourth. The round was a stellar showing from both men. Ara out-threw 110 to 66 for the Texan.
In the fifth, a sharp right landed and buzzed Arakawa a tiny bit. But he didn't back up, not even a half step. It was another round of wall to wall action, hard to score.
In the sixth, Arakawa took a count, with 30 seconds to go. The ropes kept him from going down, the ref ruled, correctly. A right hand on the button started the damage combo.
In the seventh, blood flowed from the bridge of Fig's nose. He went lefty, then righty again. Arakawa held twice and one wondered if he was losing steam. But he kept on hurling as did Figueroa.
In the eighth, time was called for a lowblow by Arakawa, and he was warned for the second time. Fig's right landed a few times to the midway point. Arakawa's left eye was puffed and he was tired.
In the ninth, Arakawa rebounded some. But in the last minute, he ate clean shots and looked weakened again. The only thing moving was hands, as both men stayed in the pocket, and launched. Fig looked fresh in the corner, for having been so busy to that point.
In round ten, it was the same, toe to toe. Fig said he was having hand problems after the round. In the 11th, he still threw with both mitts. Arakawa did some damage, with the Texan on the topes, at 1:30. They traded and the crowd roared down the stretch.
In the 12th, Arakawa had Fig on the ropes, a few rounds after folks on Twitter were calling for his corner to pull the plug.
This was a classic, people.
Fig went 480-942 to 280-1170 for the loser.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV