There's a warrior spirit inside of unbeaten Omar Figueroa that comes out each time he's tested in the ring.
Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, TexasWhen: SaturdayTV: PBC on NBC and NBC Sports Net, 8:30 p.m. ET
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 middleweight 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?
I don't go into a fight thinking or wishing it's going to be another war like the one against Arakawa because, obviously, neither of us want that for our bodies. But it's just something that I'm willing to do if that's what it comes down to or that's what I have to do. I just know the fans love it so I'll be prepared and I won't back down when it comes to rising to the occasion and putting on that kind of show for them. It's not something that I'm looking to do purposely. But we make sure that we're in shape and prepared for the worst. That's all I can do.
Looking back at the Arakawa fight, what's your favorite memory?
I think it was just the fact that I was able to do that. I always talk about me not backing down and doing what I have to do in order to win a fight. I talk about how I'm willing to risk it all in order to win, blah, blah, blah. But I'm happy that I was able to live up to that. I value that and I'm proud of myself for doing that. A lot of fighters talk a big game but when it gets heavy in there, they don't live up to what they say. I lived up to that and maybe surpassed it.
Was there a turning point moment when you realized Arakawa wasn't going to stop coming forward and you had to actively make a decision to stand your ground?
That's decided before the fight. You can't just make that kind of decision after the fight has started because that kind of leaves the options open. But for me, there are no other options but to go through it and fight hard. I had messed up hands and the only realizations that I got was that I'm not going to knock this guy out so I'm going to have to do this for 10 more rounds. So screw it.
Why will you be the last man standing against DeMarco?
Because that's the only option I have. I have no other option when going into a fight. I have to win, and I will win at all costs.