Boxing

“El Gato” Figueroa All In & On Track

MIAMI (August 14, 2007) – Newly crowned NABF light welterweight champion Frankie “El Gato” Figueroa, in a reality short time period, has gone from counseling rebellious teens to tormenting opponents in the ring. The Spanish Harlem-born, Bronx-raised Figueroa (17-2, 13 KOs), now fighting out of Miami, captured his NABF title belt on July 28, stopping former NABA champion Ubaldo Hernandez in the 12th round.

Hernandez’ portfolio includes a win against former IBF title challenger Moses Pedroza, as well as going the distance with current WBA lightweight champion Juan Diaz, WBC title challenger Vivian Harris and hot junior welterweight prospect Demetrius Hopkins.

Figueroa, a 2-time New York City high school champion wrestler who was 14-0 his senior year, didn’t get off of the mat and into the ring until seven years ago, when he took a friend’s suggestion and walked into the nearby Morris Park Gym in the Bronx.

“Wrestling has helped me as a boxer,” Figueroa explained. “It helped my balance, conditioning and determination. Some fans have told me I should be a mixed martial arts fighter with my wrestling and boxing background, but I’m 29 now, so I’m going to stick with boxing. I’m joining a wrestling club in Florida and do it just as a hobby, never while I’m preparing for a fight.”

Frankie responded to an ad for a childcare counselor and worked four years with children and teenagers with behavioral problems. Figueroa grew-up in a tough neighborhood, but he stayed in school and out of trouble, concentrating on sports.

The son of a single mother, Frankie’s life had dramatically changed when he was six, the year he first lived with the Morrissette family in the small Vermont town of Troy, thanks to the Fresh Air Fund. “I lived with them during the summer from the ages of six through 17,” Figueroa remembered. “One year I attended a Catholic school there. It was a completely different experience for me. I became an alter boy, learned to ski, milked cows. I lived a double life. I had the good fortune of having two families. I adapted to changes and had a blast. My Vermont family
is very proud of me. My brother, Roger Morrissette, watched me win the NABF title. I have a brother and sister in Vermont and a brother and sister in the Bronx. I just hung out living in the Bronx; I never got caught up in drugs, or doing something that would send me to jail, nothing. I’ve always wanted to make both of my families proud of me.”

Due to his relatively late start in boxing, as well as a slap of amateur boxing reality, Frankie’s amateur career lasted only 2 ½ years. He fought in the 147-pound division, winning his first 14 matches, before losing in the semifinals of a national tournament to Juan McPherson, 16-14, and then Alvin Aconta in the Golden Gloves.

“McPherson has over 200 amateur fights and they (USA Boxing) wanted him fighting for them on ESPN, not me,” Figueroa noted. “It was boxing politics. I never had a chance with my style of just coming forward and fighting, going to the body instead of slapping punches for points. So, I decided to turn pro.”

His pro debut was November 8, 2002, winning a four-round decision against Richard Dean at Club Amazura in Jamaica, New York. Figueroa then hit the road and fought in places like Savannah (Georgia), Winston-Salem (NC), Atlanta, Detroit and Sarasota. His first loss was by four-round majority decision to hometown favorite Troy Wilson in Atlanta. Frankie’s only other career loss was in his 10th pro fight to Francisco Rincon (8-1) in Poughkeepsie, New York.

“My first loss was a joke,” Figueroa added. “I dropped him and they called it a slip. Then I got head butted. I don’t even consider it a loss. I got hit with some good shots (against Rincon). My inexperience showed. I had the balls, but my legs weren’t there. He was the better man that night but I’m proud I kept fighting after I went down. I learned a lot.”

Three fights later, Figueroa stopped Hector Alejandro, Jr. (10-1) in the sixth round for the New York State lightweight title. Frankie followed that bout with a 10-round decision versus Maximo Cuevas (7-2-1) for the vacant WBC Intercontinental Mundo Hispano welterweight crown.

Figueroa came of age on 11/11 (November 11) in 2006, successfully defending his New York State light welterweight championship against highly touted prospect, unbeaten Joey Rios (14-0), by 10-round majority decision at the famed Madison Square Garden.

A third-round TKO of veteran Antonio Ramirez (24-14-6) this past March 2 was Frankie’s last fight in New York, at least for a while, because he relocated in North Miami. “I was based in New York State but I was fighting on the road and there wasn’t a real buzz about me in New York City,” Figueroa remarked. “I had been my own business manager and my new promoter, Seeno Group, bought out my contract. I’m living in Miami in great weather with my own apartment and a car. I like it here where I’m isolated. I never was one to go to clubs in New York City and I don’t hit them in South Beach. I am building a good following in Florida."

Frankie, a U.S. Army veteran who has a son named Frankie, III (aka Ian), gained invaluable experience sparring with the likes of Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Arturo Gatti. In fact, he really enjoyed training camp with Cotto in Puerto Rico, where Frankie has family in Santurce.

“After winning the NABF title, I’m where I want to be right now,” Figueroa concluded. “I think boxing all of the time, but it really isn’t my life. I like going on line. I hope to defend my title this year and fight for a world title next year. I’m in all out wars, that’s who I am. I’m a boxer-puncher but, more than anything, I’m a fighter. I like seek-and-destroy missions, but I can play chess, too. I go all out, balls to the wall, all of the time.

“My new manager, Sal LoNano, is going to get me a world title fight. He’s been in this business a long time. I signed with him because of his experience. He helped Micky Ward make millions of dollars and he got my good friend, (IBF junior welterweight champ) Paulie Malignaggi, two world title shots in a year. We really get along well. He’s a funny guy and so am I. I never knew pay scales, but now I just concentrate on fighting; Sal’s protecting me.”

Figueroa is nicknamed “El Gato” – The Cat – because he was the only one quick enough to catch a cat that was a mascot at his original gym in the Bronx. This cat is a fan-friendly fighter who, at 29, is all in and ready to make noise in the 140-pound division.

For more information about Frankie Figueroa visit his web site at www.gatofigueroa.com.

Article posted on 14.08.2007



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