Jerry Belmontes said that he beat Omar Figueroa Jr. five times as an amateur, stopping him twice and making him cry at least once. Figueroa only recalled about three meetings between the two, and although he admitted to having lost all of them, he does not remember being knocked out or sobbing in defeat.
The duo met yet again on Saturday at The StubHub Center, in Carson, Calif., on Showtime this time, with the 24-year-old Figueroa making the first defense of his WBC lightweight title.
Figueroa Jr. (23-0-1, 17 knockouts) escaped with a split-decision over the 25-year-old Belmontes (19-4, 5 KOs) in the opening bout of a tripleheader, ending a nine-month ring absence in the process. Figueroa has gone 13-0 with nine knockouts since a split-draw with Arturo Quintero in November 2010.
Judges Bert A. Clements and David Mendoza had it for Figueroa, 115-113, and, 118-110, respectively, while Herbert Minn had it for Belmontes, 115-113. RingTV.com scored it 115-113 for Figueroa, who had an advantage in total punches (188-161), and power shots (171-to-125), but was out-jabbed, 30-17.
"It was more than trouble. It was just that he wouldn't make a fight out of it, so I'm sorry to the fans. It was more of a sparring match than a fight," said Figueroa, who had to pull out of a scheduled March 8 defense against Ricardo Alvarez due to an injured left hand.
"I prepared so hard for this fight, and this is the outcome. But, you know what? I only control half of the fight. The rest is up to him. I came here to fight and to put on a show, and he was running, so that's basically it. Not that it was a bad fight, because, stylistically, that's what he was supposed to do. But for the fans, I just want to apologize to the fans."
Figueroa-Belmontes opened a card headlined by welterweight boxer-puncher Keith "One Time" Thurman against two-time lightweight titlewinner Julio Diaz, and THE RING's No. 1-rated junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse opposite rugged former lightweight puncher John Molina.
Figueroa won his belt — and suffered the hand injury — against Nihito Arakawa, flooring the Japanese veteran twice during a unanimous decision last July.
March 8 was a banner night for the 25-year-old Belmontes (19-3, 5 KOs), who spoiled the U.S. debut of previously unbeaten Will Tomlinson of Australia with a unanimous decision victory.
"I think that I landed the cleaner shots and the more effective shots," said Belmontes. "All that he did was throw punches and put pressure on me."
Figueroa is from Weslaco, Texas, and Belmontes, of Corpus Christi, Texas.
"I came 100 percent to win this fight," said Figueroa. "I knew that he was going to make this fight ugly and boring."
RINGTV.COM SCORED IT FOR FIGUEROA, 115-113
Round 1: In the first round, Belmontes moved and boxed well, landing the double-jab as well as overhand and straight rights and employing nice lateral movement if not clinching to halt Figueroa's momentim. Belmontes out-landed Figueroa, 17-to-9 in the first round. Belmontes, 10-9
Round 2: Belmontes continued to get off first in the second round, with early lead rights, left hooks and right crosses. In the middle of the round, Belmontes also stood his ground more, hammering Figueroa backward with lefts and rights. Although Figueroa briefly turned the tide, Belmontes reversed him on the ropes and ended closed with a blistering combination. Belmontes, 10-9; Belmontes, 20-18
Round 3: Figueroa landed three hard right hands over the top in close, but Belmontes was undeterred. Four more right hands by Figueroa landed to the broad side of Belmontes' face, even as the challenger continued to bull forward. A right uppercut and a left hook landed for Figueroa, but Belmontes answered with three right hands before Figueroa closed with a four-punch combination. Figueroa out-landed Belmontes, 28-17, in power punches for the third round. Figueroa, 10-9; Belmontes, 29-28.
Round 4: Belmontes forced the action from a boxing stance early in the fourth, controlling from a distance. Figueroa came on behind his own jab over the final portion of the slowed-down fourth, which he closed with a couple of nice combinations in two separate instances on the ropes. Figueroa was bleeding from the nose after the fourth. Figueroa, 10-9, Even 38-38
Round 5: In the fifth, Figueroa won the early exchanges in close, even as Belmontes shouldered him backward to the ropes at one point. Figueroa displayed a cut over his right eye, nevertheless, out-working Belmontes on the inside. Figueroa landed effectively to the head and body, getting the better of the exchanges, even as Belmontes loaded up on two right hands down the stretch. Figueroa, 10-9; Figueroa, 48-47.
Round 6: The sixth was more of the same, Figueroa out-working Belmontes just by a hair in activity. Each of the fighters enjoyed exchanges over the final stretch, although Figueroa punctuated his with a left to the body and a right to the head just prior to the bell. Figueroa, 10-9; Figueroa, 58-56.
Round 7: Three jabs by Figueroa were countered by one from Belmontes, who also hooked effectively early on. Belmontes went back to boxing again, this, against an occasional southpaw stance from Figueroa. Al Bernstein and Steve Farhood had the fight even, while Danny Jacobs had the fight for Figueroa, 58-56. Belmontes regained control behind his jab, movement and distance, with an occasional right hand over the top. Belmontes landed a long right, then a left before the round ended. Belmontes, 10-9; Figueroa, 67-66.
Round 8: Belmontes landed an early left hook and went back to jabbing and moving. With Figueroa on the ropes, Belmontes landed a left and a right before moving away. Figueroa, out of the southpaw stance, landed two nice jabs and then a third before moving away. Figueroa jabbed and went to the body twice with left hands out of the southpaw stance. Another jab by Figueroa and another reached the mark. Not bad boxing by Figueroa. The crowd doesn't like it, though. Two jabs by Figueroa, and a jab followed by a right cross by Belmontes. Figueroa, 10-9; Figueroa, 77-75.
Round 9: The fighters traded jabs early, although Figueroa landed a nice right. Belmontes comes back with a left hook and then a double-jab followed by a right cross by Belmontes. When Belmontes is on his toes, he is trouble. The crowd boos, but Belmontes continues to move laterally and box off the jab. In close, Figueroa lands a right hand over the top. Figueroa fires a double-jab and a right that misses. Left hook by Belmontes and a straight right hand to follow. Inside, Belmontes also fires three right hands to the body. Belmontes, 10-9; Figueroa, 86-85.
Round 10: Belmontes opens with two jabs. Figueroa lands two jabs and a right hand followed by a left hook. Two lead left hands land for Belmontes, who follows with an uppercut and dances away. Belmontes fires and lands an upeprcut. Bernstein and Farhood have it for Belmontes, with Jacobs scoring it for Figueroa. Two lefts and a right by Figueroa, but Belmontes lands a left before taking a right. Another left lands for Belmontes before the clinch. Another fight stops Figueroa, as does a left by Belmontes. On the ropes, Figueroa connects with a right and a left but Belmontes gets away. Figueroa lands a left and a right, takes a right uppercut from Belmontes, and then, lands a right and a left. Figueroa, 10-9; Figueroa, 96-94.
Round 11: Belmontes is on his bicycle, hands held high. Counter-right lands for Belmontes as does a jab. Figueroa lands a hook before Belmontes clinches. Figueroa lands three lefts during the clinch. Belmontes grazes with two jabs and continues to move. Right uppercut and a right over the top both by Figueroa. Left hook and a right cross by Figueroa. Lead right hand and a left by Figueroa. Figueroa lands two left hands on the inside. Figueroa, 10-9; Figueroa, 106-103.
Round 12: Belmontes owned the first 30 seconds behind his jab and right hands. Another jab by Belmontes, and Figueroa has trouble finding him. Missed left hook by Figueroa, but he lands two jabs. Another jab by Figueroa and another. Right by Figueroa. Right hand by Belmontes and a jab. Belmontes jab backs up Figueroa, briefly, and he follows with a right hand. Belmontes lands a left hook, right hand and a left. Belmontes, 10-9; Figueroa, 115-113.
RINGTV.COM SCORED IT FOR FIGUEROA, 115-113