There’s a warrior spirit inside of unbeaten Omar Figueroa that comes out each time he’s tested in the ring.Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KOs), 25, has quickly built a name for himself as an action fighter who is willing to leave it all in the ring. The native of Weslaco, Texas, will get a chance to do that once again when he returns Saturday against veteran Antonio DeMarco at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The 12-round junior welterweight bout headlines a Premier Boxing Champions card (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET).
DeMarco (35-5-1), 29, a former lightweight titlist, announced his retirement in June following a one-sided decision loss to Rances Barthelemy, but agreed shortly thereafter to continue his career.
Figueroa recently spoke with ESPN.com about what’s at stake and his plans for 2016.
How does it feel entering yet another fight with all-action potential?
Well that’s what I live for, so obviously I’m excited and just ready to get it on.
You held off Ricky Burns to win a decision in May. What do you believe you showed in regards to your progression as a fighter in that bout?
I think I showed resiliency and tenacity. Honestly, I was not prepared for that fight at all, at least boxing-wise. But we made sure that we were at least in shape and I went out there and gave the fans the best fight that I possibly could. I had a fractured hand going into camp and I was in a cast for seven of the eight weeks that I prepared for that fight. It was just me being ballsy and going out there to show that I was better. That was it.
How important is it for you to live up to your reputation as a fan-friendly fighter?
I don’t know. I just fight because I enjoy fighting and I enjoy fighting the way I fight. I’m just glad the fans enjoy it too. It makes it better.
How early in your career did this become your style?
I have always been aggressive but I was never that aggressive until I realized that nobody knows how to fight on the inside nowadays. For me, it just comes natural. I have been fighting like that since I was 6 or 7 years old. I was always fighting taller guys so my dad always taught me to fight on the inside. I think it’s a great thing now because a lot of fighters don’t know how to fight on the inside as well as I do. I can see everything and feel the movements. I think it’s a lot easier for me.
What type of adjustments did you have to make moving up to 140 pounds?
It’s just the fact that I feel more complete going into the fight. I’m not killing myself to make 135 anymore and 140 is just a lot easier.
DeMarco enters the bout on a two-fight losing skid and appears to be on the downside of his career. How do you gauge exactly where he’s at right now?
Honestly, I imagine the DeMarco that fought [Edwin] Valero [in 2010] and gave him a hell of a fight. Valero was a hell of a fighter himself so for DeMarco to be able to go nine rounds with him and give him hell at some points — I know he’s no pushover. I actually helped Valero during his camp for the DeMarco fight with sparring, so I know firsthand how good DeMarco is and how dangerous he can be. I’m not underestimating him at all.
There are so many names under the PBC banner at 140 and 147 pounds. How exciting is that for you when you look at the potential fights available to you?
I live for the challenge, that’s why I chose boxing over anything else that I could be doing. It’s just whoever, whenever — I don’t care. If my team and [adviser Al] Haymon thinks I’m ready for whatever name he brings up next, I’m ready for them. That’s about all I can do, which is to get ready and be thankful that I have a fight.
What kind of plans do you have for 2016?
I just plan to hopefully stay healthy. That has been a big problem issue. I’m hoping to stay healthy and be able to fight at least three times next year. I’m just hoping that 2016 is a big year for us.
You were involved in a fight of the year candidate in 2013 when you defeated Nihito Arakawa. How much do you think about the potential of being in a fight like that again each time you step through the ropes?