By Lem Satterfield
Former 122-pound champion Moises Flores is nicknamed, “Chucky,” after the murderous doll in the horror movie series, “Child’s Play,” in part, owing to his reputation as a street fighting youth in his native Jalisco, Mexico.
And Flores (25-1, 17 KOs) vows to bring a malevolent mentality into Sunday’s junior featherweight brawl with Brandon Figueroa (17-0, 12 KOs) at The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on the undercard of a 168-pound main event featuring IBF champion Jose Uzecategui (28-2, 23 KOs) in defense of his crown against Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) on FOX (8 p.m. PT/ 5 p.m. PT).
“I’m going into this fight with a warrior’s mentality,” said Flores, 32, who lost his last fight in June to WBA titleholder Daniel Roman by unanimous decision. “I’m ready to go toe-to-toe for every second of every three-minute round until my hand is raised.”
Flores and Figueroa share a common opponent in ex-title holder Oscar Escandon of Colombia, with Figueroa overcoming a cut over his left eye from a third-round head butt with a right uppercut, dropping and stopping Escandon in the 10th-round in his last fight in September.
The stoppage victory was his fourth straight and third in 2018 for “The Heartbreaker,” whose father, Omar Figueroa Sr., worked his corner, and older brother and former 135-pound champion, Omar Jr., served as a ringside TV commentator.
Flores, of Mexico, stands 5-foot-9 compared to 5-foot-1 ½ for Escandon, whom he dethroned as interim champion by split-decision in April 2015.
Flores notes that prior to facing Figueroa Escandon had suffered a pair of stoppage losses in the third- and seventh-rounds against Tugstsogt Nyambayar (May 2018) and southpaw WBC 126-pound champion Gary Russell (May 2017).
“When I fought Escandon, I was the underdog and he was the champion, but Escandon had taken some beatings and was in the perfect position to be stopped by Figueroa,” said Flores.
“I just can’t wait to get in there and go to war with this kid. This is the perfect fight for me, and all I can think of is really just getting in their and banging with Figueroa in the tradition of those real, Mexican wars.”
Flores said the 5-foot-7 Figueroa, a power-punching, switch-hitter from Weslaco, Texas, compares favorably to the 5-foot-9 Luis Emanuel Cusolito, the man he stopped by 12th-round TKO in September 2015.
“Figuera and Cusolito have very similar dimensions,” said Flores of Cusolito, who is 27-2 with 21 KOs. “The only difference is that a lot more people know who Brandon is.”
Flores was ineligible to win Roman’s crown due to his coming in a pound over the 122-pound limit for their clash at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on the undercard of left-handed IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence’s first-round knockout of Carlos Ocampo.
Prior to Roman in June 2017, Flores was involved in a demoralizing no-contest with Cuban southpaw and former champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, who landed a left cross a full second after the bell rang to end the first.
Flores was initially counted out after hitting the deck, but after the result was changed, the WBA ordered an immediate rematch even as Rigondeaux instead moved up in weight.
“I trained hard for the Roman fight, but it was a long layoff from the [Rigondeaux] fight,” said Flores. “I’m not making any excuses [for missing weight] and my last performance against Roman, but I did have a few issues, physically, that have been taken care of for this fight.”
Figueroa welcomes the challenge, hoping to be the first man to stop Flores.
“Flores hasn’t been knocked out and he hasn’t been knocked down. Usually the fighters he’s faced go after the head, but I haven’t seen many of them working him to the body, so I feel like he’s not going to be prepared for the body work that I’m gonna give him,” said Figueroa.
“But this guy’s really tough, and you can never underestimate an opponent. But I feel that it can be maybe an early knockout because I feel so much stronger, now. We’re ready for the whole 12 rounds, but at the same time, I have the confidence and the power and the speed to wear him down in the later rounds and be the better man that night.”
The customarily orthodox Figueroa’s finishing blow was delivered upon Escandon out of a southpaw stance, even as he went furthest in a fight since consecutive eight-round unanimous decision wins over Luis Fernando Saavedra and Fatiou Fassinou in May and July 2017.
“Escandon was my first time going 10 rounds, but now I’m confident that those body shots can wear you down and I can sustain my power throughout the fight. My second wins comes in and I get stronger, and that’s when I can dominate the fight in the later rounds,” said Figueroa.
“Flores has got the experience of having gone 12 rounds four times, so his conditioning is up there. He has an awkward style, throws a lot of punches, and definitely likes to throw that right hand a lot, which would be perfect for me to dodge it and come back with a left hook to the body.”
Flores and Figueroa are ranked fourth and fifth by the WBA, whose champion is Roman. Figueroa’s ninth according to the IBF, whose titleholder is unbeaten southpaw Terence TJ Doheny.
“This fight is perfect for Miguel and Brandon. Miguel doesn’t have a reverse, and Brandon will come to fight,” said Nelson Lopez, who guides the career of Flores with Garry Jonas’ Probox Management. “This is definitely a crossroads for Chucky, who has a point to prove, and it’s a steppingstone for Brandon if he wins.”