Omar Figueroa Jr. hopes Adrien Broner gets help, and stops making excuses
Omar Figueroa Jr. is angry. He has a right to be. The junior welterweight has been a shining light for mental health awareness, courageously speaking about his struggles and placing himself at the forefront for those seeking help.
Then this happened on Monday.
The fight that Figueroa, 32, was looking to place him back into the contender picture was seriously altered when Adrien Broner announced on social media that he was withdrawing from the fight, citing “mental health issues.”
Sergey Lipinets will replace Broner, a former four-division titleholder, on the Showtime Championship Boxing card in the 12-round junior welter main event on Saturday night from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
But it still does not sit well with Figueroa (28-2-1, 19 knockouts). He’s coming off consecutive defeats to Yordenis Ugas and Abel Ramos and has not fought since May 2021.
To say the former WBC lightweight titlist was livid over the Broner news would be an understatement.
Broner, who behind the scenes has been a large nuisance to everyone involved with the fight, failing to cooperate with interview requests with surly behavior, disparaging the very people who went out of their way to give him another chance, Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza and Premier Boxing Champions chief Al Haymon, came out on social media Monday morning to proclaim that his “mental health” was a reason for withdrawing.
The 33-year-old Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs) has not fought since he beat Jovanie Santiago in February 2021. He’s already ostracized himself from many in boxing and this does not help.
“Man I’m going thru a lot at this moment in my life but I ain’t [gonna] give up,” wrote the Cincinnati native on social media. “I set more goals and I ain’t stopping until I finish what I started but sorry to say this but I’m not fighting [on August 20].”
Figueroa, meanwhile, will try to pick up the scraps. He’s been training for three months with the intention to prove he’s just as good as was in 2013 when he won a major belt.
“So, I don’t understand why he doesn’t man up and come clean that he f—cked up, instead of trying to pull the mental health card, because I feel it undermines what me and a lot of people have gone through and are going through.–Omar Figueroa Jr.
“We knew this was always obviously a possibility (of Broner falling out), but as far as me taking it into consideration, I didn’t,” Figueroa said. “All of my focus was to Broner. We knew something could happen. The camps became intertwined, because we knew people that knew his people, and they let us know things along the way.
“We knew it was a possibility.
“What really ticked me off was his excuse to use mental health, to try and pull the mental health card, because like I said, we’d been hearing stories about him screwing around, and going out and drinking, and partying, and not taking camp seriously.
“So, I don’t understand why he doesn’t man up and come clean that he f—cked up, instead of trying to pull the mental health card, because I feel it undermines what me and a lot of people have gone through and are going through. It’s a constant daily struggle that I have had to deal with throughout this camp.
“I had to maintain my focus and keep up the level of training required. This has devastated me. I’m very pissed off.”
Figueroa questions if it was mental health issues or Broner’s lack of discipline that’s led to him pull out.
“I’m 100-percent sure that it’s lack of discipline and him being him, while not questioning if he has mental health issues, but hiding behind the whole thing now is just a low blow,” he said.
Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs) can also use a victory. He was stopped for the first time in his career in the sixth round by rising superstar Jaron Ennis last April.
The last time he fought at 140 was four years ago, when he lost to then-IBF welterweight titlist Mikey Garcia by unanimous decision.
“We barely saw some video last night and we’re going to keep studying (Lipinets) and hoping that we can adapt and overcome this,” Figueroa said. “I need to rise up to the challenge. It’s a good thing that and we had a wonderful camp. We’re prepared to the best of our abilities. We’re ready for anything anyone can bring into the ring.
“Honestly, I’m just pissed. I’m hoping that I use this. There’s no other way around it. What are we going to do? It’s fight week. It’s not like I have time to change stuff in sparring, or training, or anything. I just have to trust myself and the work that we’ve done and move forward as best as we can.”
Figueroa does have empathy towards Broner.
“He obviously has mental health issues, and we can all see that, we all know that, and we all agree to that, but he posts all of these pictures on social media of him partying, and no one is denying he can do that. But why not use his reach to help people who do struggle with mental health issues.
“I’ve been working my ass to get to this point. I’ve been dealing with it every day, working my ass off battling myself, and for him to use this as an excuse is a low blow for everyone dealing with this.
“I hope Adrien Broner gets help. I know the impact he can make, because he has millions of followers on social media. I’m challenging him in a way to help the mental health community and to help himself, too. He definitely needs some help. I hope he gets it.
“But this has been insulting to me very much so, and not just me, but I have people that have reached out to me on social media that have thanked me for being honest and open about my mental health struggles and how they can relate.
“I appreciate that. To those who have opened up to me, it’s like a slap in the face to all of us.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.