Omar “Panterita” Figueroa Jr. (21-0-1, 17 KO) had a breakthrough year in 2012. He started of the year dispatching lightweight prospect Michael Perez on ShoBox in January 2012. Panterita impressed fans when he forced Perez’ corner to stop the fight after six brutal rounds. Between March and July of that year, Panterita took care of five more opponents — Ramon Ayala; Robbie Cannon; Tyler Ziolkowski; Alain Hernandez; Dominic Salcido. He took a long break after his last fight of 2012, a decision win over Salcido that served as a prelim to an HBO card.
He didn’t seem too happy that it went to decision; the man loves a KO. However, he realizes that it was a learning experience.
Panterita returned in March 2013, stepping in against Henry Aurad in San Antonio. In the lead-up to that fight, in Joel Diaz’ camp, WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley was also preparing for a fight against hard-hitter Ruslan Provodnikov. Panterita got to experience what it was like to spar with a world-class boxer.
“Our work is awesome. It’s intense, it’s work. How it should be. He’s going to have a pressure fighter and I’m a pressure fighter, so it works out. I get to practice my pressure and he gets to practice against a guy that puts pressure. He moves a lot, he uses a lot of footwork; it’s really helped both of our camps come together.”
Panterita secured his 16th career knockout, stopping Aurad in 47 seconds of the first frame. Two weeks later, Bradley won a war against Provodnikov; a bout that I feel is the front-runner for “Fight of the Year” (2013).
A month in half later, Panterita took part in the biggest fight of his career. On the Canelo Alvarez vs Austin Trout undercard, in front of 39,247 fans in the Alamodome, Panterita faced Abner Cotto, a Pan-American silver-medalist who is also the cousin of Miguel Angel Cotto. Both fighters were undefeated, so someone was going to have to let go of their pretty ‘0’.
Luckily for the fans that were there in San Antonio and all la gente from the Rio Grande Valley watching on TV, it was another Panterita KO. As the crowd roared with approval, a nasty body shot finished Cotto at 2:57 of the first round.
Shortly after his Alamodome triumph, it was rumored that Panterita would take on Mexican boxer Daniel Estrada. Instead Japan’s Nihito Arakawa (24-2), who had suffered a technical decision loss to Estrada in November of last year, was announced as Panterita’s opponent.
The decision was also made that Panterita-Arakawa bout would be for the WBC interim lightweight (135 lbs.) championship. The official WBC world lightweight champion, Adrien Broner, was last seen defeating Paulie Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title. If Broner does not come back to down to lightweight, Panterita will be promoted to official WBC world lightweight champion.
Tomorrow night could be a major turning point in the life of Panterita. If he defeats the southpaw veteran from Japan, he could be on his way to becoming a big name within the world of boxing. Maybe twenty years from now, we’ll be used to seeing a famous Weslaco landmark dedicated to Panterita, the same way we always see Freddy Fender’s iconic mug when we’re making our the way to the beach. One can only hope.