Trainer Joel Diaz has claimed that Omar Figueroa can stop Ricardo “Dinamita” Alvarez within five rounds when they meet in a March 8 bout that will represent Figueroa's first defense of his WBC lightweight belt.
Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 knockouts) fought with severely damaged hands in his last fight, with Japan's Nihito Arakawa, whom he floored twice on the way to a unanimous decision.
During a Wednesday conference call, Figueroa, 24, said he will "be looking for the knockout" against Alvarez (23-2-3, 14 KOs), whose younger brother, Canelo Alvarez, takes on fellow Mexican Alfredo Angulo in the headliner of the Showtime Pay Per View event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"Joel has some validity to what he's saying," said Figueroa. "He's the one who is training, and he's the one who is watching me, and he notices the hard work that I do and that I put into my training camp and into my craft. Most of the the time, the majority of my fights have ended within two or three rounds, and it just happened to be that in the last fight that I hurt my hands, and my hand didn't hold up.
"But I was still able to go 12 hard rounds, and that's what I'm preparing myself for. I'm preparing myself to give it my best, and to be in the best shape, and to give a good fight. But, obviously, yes, I am going to be looking for the knockout. But if the knockout doesn't come, and if I happen to hurt my hands again, then I'm mentally strong and I can adjust, and I know that I can go 12 rounds and win this fight."
The card will feature the first defense by IBF 154-pound titleholder Carlos Molina against prospect Jermall Charlo, the 23-year-old twin brother of unbeaten junior middleweight contender Jermell Charlo, as well as WBC 122-pound beltholder Leo Santa Cruz in a defense against Cristian Mijares.
A fourth bout matches Jorge Linares against Arakawa on Showtime Extreme prior to the pay per view.
Given that he is facing the sibling of a Mexican icon, the Texas-based Figueroa is determined to put on a brilliant effort.
"The main reason we took this fight is because it did represent a great opportunity with respect to the fan base and the people that will be watching, so, other than that, it doesn't mean anything. It's just numbers," said Figueroa.
"You have the biggest Mexican fighter right now fighting on that card, so, definitely, there's going to be maybe 80 percent of the people watching the fight are going to be Mexican, and you have [Alvarez’s] brother going out there against me. It's a great opportunity. It's a perfect platform to get my name out there."
SANTA CRUZ LOOKS TO SHINE LIKE HIS IDOLS
"When he goes forward, my dad always taught me about his body shots," said Santa Cruz, referring to Chavez. "After Chavez, Oscar came along, and Oscar used to box. He would punch and move. So when we have to box, we will box, and when we have to apply pressure, we'll apply pressure. We tried to do a little bit of everything."
In his last fight, Santa Cruz had to do just that during a unanimous decision over Cesar Seda, representing the first southpaw he had faced since dethroning Vusi Malinga for the IBF’s vacant bantamweight belt in 2012.
"Cesar Seda was a great fighter, and he came ready and prepared because he wanted that title, and he showed it that night," said Santa Cruz. "We worked on cutting off the ring and cutting the distance and boxing a little more."
In Seda, Santa Cruz defended the WBC junior featherweight belt he won by third-round knockout over Victor Terrazas, the last man to defeat Mijares, who otherwise has won 14 of his last 15 fights.
"This is going to be different. There's no comparison between Victor Terrazas and Leo Santa Cruz. This is going to be very different," said Mijares.
"It's about styles, and Leo has a different style. I think that we both beat Victor Terrazas, but I just didn't get the decision. But I think that I wore him down and and I hurt him in the fight and prepared him for Leo."
JERMALL BEATS JERMELL TO THE PUNCH FOR A TITLE SHOT
Having been on hand last month to watch Jermell (23-0, 11 KOs) earn a unanimous decision over two-time 160-pound title challenger Gabriel Rosado in Washington, D.C., Jermall Charlo admits that there was some discussion between the siblings when he became the first to receive a title shot.
"Of course, me and my brother, we stick by each other's side, and there was kind of a little bit of laughter in between us," said Jermall.
"It was like, 'Wow, you made it,' and, 'this is it right here.' This is a once-in-lifetime opportunity for me. I'm getting to fight Carlos Molina out of nowhere."
Jermall is motivated, nevertheless, in the wake of what was Jermell's biggest win to date.
"Gabriel Rosado, everybody knows that he's tough, and he had nothing to lose, just like Carlos Molina has nothing to lose. Just like they doubted my brother, they've doubted me. It's only going to make me grind to my maximum potential to shut Carlos Molina out. … He is the storm, and just like my brother weathered the storm, I'll weather the storm also," said Jermall.
"Carlos Molina is a beast, and I'm taking nothing away from Carlos Molina at all. He does everything that he wants to do in the ring, and he knows how to win, obviously, because he's a world champion. … I'm not necessarily worried about his style, and I'm not necessarily worried about what he's going to do. But all of my God-given attributes will be on display."
MOLINA'S LONG, 'TOUGH ROAD' TO STARDOM
Molina won his belt by majority decision over Ishe Smith in October, culminating what has been largely a tough-luck career, including a controversial 10th-round disqualification loss to James Kirkland.
"I don't feel that Carlos Molina has lost to anyone that they say he lost to. I feel like he's an undefeated fighter at heart," said Charlo. "But he's never fought anyone with my size, my power and my speed, and my IQ, so I'm going to give Carlos Molina something that he's never seen before."
Not only would Molina not change a thing, but he wouldn't have Charlo perceive him any differently.
"It's been a tough road, but I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me or anything like that. That made me a better fighter, and I wouldn't have it any other way than the way that I did it," said Molina. "I'm always in shape, and I know how hard I've worked to get to this point, and I'm just so focused for every fight. I treat every fight equally. Every fight, to me, I train like it's a championship fight, and this is no different."
CHARLO VS CHARLO 'IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN'
For the record, Jermall Charlo said that he would never fight his brother.
"A lot of people ask us that, and I don't think that anyone would ever want to see me and my brother fight each other," said Jermall Charlo. "It's not ever going to happen. Our belts are going to hang up together."
Photo: Naoki Fukuda