WESLACO — Brandon Figueroa is elated to be back in the familiar surroundings of his hometown of Weslaco.
This year, Figueroa (13-0, 8 KOs) has fought in Los Angeles and New York. The closest fight to home for the 20-year-old was Houston. The travel has brought him the spotlight of national television and the coaching of a world-class gym and trainer, but sometimes there’s just no place like home.
“It feels amazing,” Figueroa said. “Being on another main event, my second main event here in the Rio Grande Valley, it feels amazing.”
Figueroa, a featherweight, will headline the “Return of the Heartbreaker” show that begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes. The doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the door, or by calling Omar Figueroa Sr. at 956-648-8305.
Brandon Figueroa will be facing the tough veteran Victor Proa (28-4-2, 21 KOs). Proa is from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Proa, 32, has faced some top prospects in the boxing world including Joseph Diaz and Francisco de Vaca.
“Knowing he is a Mexican fighter, that he has that Mexican blood in him, I know he is going to come forward and he is going to give me a fight,” Brandon Figueroa said. “I saw some tape of when he fought Joseph Diaz. I just have to put the pressure on him and attack the body and finish him.”
For his previous three fights, Brandon Figueroa worked with one of the top trainers in boxing, Joel Diaz. His brother Omar Figueroa Jr. started training with Diaz and invited Brandon to work with him, as well. Brandon said because this fight is in the Valley, he chose to go back to his roots and train with his father, Omar Sr., at Pantera Boxing Gym in Weslaco.
“I guess the difference between training here and over there is the intensity is more over there because of what you expect from (Diaz),” Brandon Figueroa said. “Also the sparring. I’m not just sparring anyone from the Valley, I am sparring people from all over the country: prospects, Golden Boy prospects and fighters that are undefeated. That definitely helped me in my training. But training here, I love it here. I feel more comfortable, confident, and I guess I just get that support from my whole family.”
Should Brandon Figueroa emerge victorious on Saturday, talks are already in motion for him to fight again this year, probably in December. He said he wasn’t sure who would train him for the potential fight at the end of the year, but that he would be comfortable either way.
For now, Brandon Figueroa’s sole focus is on Saturday and putting on a show for the Valley to remember.
“I want to attack the body and the head will fall,” he said. “That has always been my tactic through all my fights. I saw that he doesn’t really have a strong core, so that’s my main target.”
FIGHTING FOR A PURPOSE
Heavyweight Eric Molina, of Edinburg, has never been one for the theatrics of boxing. He is a blue-collar fighter, and he doesn’t get caught up in the bright lights of national television.
So it’s no surprise that after trips to Alabama, Poland, England and Brooklyn, he returns to the Valley for Saturday’s show the same man he was when he left.
“I’m not making nothing on this fight,” Molina said. “This fight was put together with a purpose. I have always felt, fighting in October it is so special to me as far as motivating me.”
His purpose for this fight is a middle schooler who touched his heart. Javier Martinez, a Valley native, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Molina heard the story, he reached out and did whatever he could to help Martinez and boost his spirits. Molina had Martinez with him for fights in the Valley, even having him in the corner for one of his bouts.
“When the opportunity came up for me to fight in October, it just means that much more to get in there. I feel like this fight it isn’t about the money or TV, it’s just about finding something to fight for,” Molina said. “Lots of my fans keep up with (Martinez), and they keep up with his ups and downs. They keep up with it. Just recently, there was the worst down that could possibly be updated. It’s a sad situation with him. I think that everybody knows somebody that has been affected by cancer. For me, it is just different when it is a kid.”
With September being childhood cancer awareness month and October being breast cancer awareness month, Molina saw the opportunity to do something special for Martinez and everyone in the Valley who has had to endure the same hardships.
Molina will face Lance Gauch (8-11-3, 4 KOs) of Missouri.
“He is a veteran fighter of 22 fights,” Molina said. “He is about 8 years younger than me. He is 8-11, but he is coming off of four wins. He has some rhythm, and any time you face a guy coming off wins like that, you have to watch out, because he is coming to beat you. He knows if he beats me, it will set him up for better fights, so my job is to get him out of there and to win and move on with my career.”
Molina knows that this event promises to be a big night for the Valley.
“I want to invite the Valley to come out,” Molina said. “Because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you get to fight in front of your home crowd. I always look at it like that. I want to invite all the fans to come out and support me and believe that I will become the first Mexican heavyweight world champion.”
Cesar Cantu, of Weslaco, will be making his pro debut at the event on Saturday.
“He is a great kid,” Omar Figueroa Sr. said of Cantu, who he trains. “He is one of those fighters that moves. Kind of like a Mayweather-style fighter. That’s his style.”
Cantu, 24, has been working at the Pantera Boxing Gym for a few years now, accruing a 16-3 amateur record. Cantu will face Manuel Rubalcava (3-23, 5 KOs) at the catchweight of 128 pounds.
“I’m excited, because I always wanted to do this as a professional,” Cantu said. “This has always been my dream. Now it is here.”
Cantu has had to learn on the fly, and the little things like getting everyone tickets and picking out the perfect attire for your debut can weigh on a young fighter during fight week. Cantu said he has had a lot of help and guidance from Omar Figueroa Sr. and Brandon Figueroa. Since joining the gym, Cantu has often been a sparring partner for Brandon Figueroa.
“It was good, because it’s good experience,” Cantu said. “It’s not just anybody. It’s Brandon, tough competition, so that way I will be ready.”