- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Lightweight Omar Figueroa, coming off the most significant win of his career in front of a throng of adoring fans in San Antonio, will return to the city to face Japan's Nihito Arakawa for a vacant interim title on July 27, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Monday night.
On April 20, Figueroa (21-0-1, 17 KOs), 23, an all-action brawler from Weslaco, Texas, scored two knockdowns in a first-round destruction of fellow prospect Abner Cotto -- a cousin of former three-division champion Miguel Cotto -- at the Alamodome in San Antonio in the co-featured fight of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's unanimous decision victory against Austin Trout. Alvarez unified junior middleweight world titles before a sold-out crowd of 39,247, but those fans were also cheering wildly for Figueroa.
Now he will be back in San Antonio to face Arakawa at the AT&T Center on a Showtime-televised tripleheader that also includes former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto (28-2, 22 KOs) against Jesus Soto Karass (27-8-3, 17 KOs) in the main event with Keith Thurman (20-0, 18 KOs) challenging interim welterweight titlist Diego Chaves (22-0, 18 KOs) of Argentina in another undercard fight.
Schaefer said he made a deal with Arakawa promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions on Monday.
"We got everything confirmed," Schaefer said. "Mr. Honda is an honorable guy and we have a deal. I talked to [Showtime Sports boss] Stephen [Espinoza] to see if the fight would be OK with him for that card. He likes Figueroa very much and he liked it a lot. He saw what a big hit Omar was on the Canelo-Trout undercard."
The fight will be for the interim title, at least for the time being. Adrien Broner holds the full title, but he is jumping up two weight classes to challenge welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi on June 22. After the fight, Broner, who is also with Golden Boy, will have to decide whether he wants to return to lightweight and defend his title.
"I think the likelihood of Broner going back to 135 pounds after the fight with Paulie is remote, which means he would vacate the title and the (Figueroa-Arakawa) winner would have the title," Schaefer said. "Broner probably would stay at welterweight or go down to junior welterweight, but I don't think he will go back to lightweight.
"I'm excited for Omar. He obviously has been coming along very nicely. He's a very exciting fighter. Now, to be able to bring him back to San Antonio, where he obviously has a fan base and had almost 40,000 people cheering for him last month, is amazing. I'm happy for the young man to get an opportunity to fight for a world title. Omar takes risks when he fights and, as his promoter, I'm on the edge of my seat watching him. He goes for it and that's what people want to see. So I'm happy for him to get this chance."
Arakawa (24-2-1, 16 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw, will be fighting outside of Japan for the second time. Two fights ago, in his only fight away from home, Arakawa lost a 10th-round technical decision to Daniel Estrada in Mexico in November when Estrada could not continue following a swollen right eye caused by an accidental elbow. Arakawa rebounded from that defeat to stop Pakphum Tor Pornchai in the second round on May 4.
Lightweight Omar Figueroa will return to San Antonio to face Japan's Nihito Arakawa for a vacant interim title on July 27, Golden Boy told ESPN.com on Monday night.