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Figueroa puts injuries behind him entering DeMarco fight

One thing about former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa that he has made quite obvious to boxing fans is that he will give everything he has in the ring to achieve victory.

He is not the fastest fighter, the most powerful or the most skilled but he has something nobody can teach a boxer and that is heart.

Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, TexasWhen: SaturdayTV: PBC on NBC and NBC Sports Net, 8:30 p.m. ET

No matter what adversity he has faces in the ring, he continues to plug away. He has been riddled by hand injuries in recent years and they have taken their toll. His bad hands are one of the main reasons he has had stretches of inactivity over the past two years.

He has resigned himself to the fact that his hands are likely going to give him issues for however long his career lasts.

For example, Figueroa came off a nine-month layoff in May and moved up to junior welterweight to take on former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns of Scotland. They put on a tremendous fight, one that Figueroa won by unanimous decision. However, as had been the case in other fights, Figueroa's hands were a mess.

"We made it work for the Burns fight and performed to the best of our abilities," Figueroa said. "I had a fractured hand for all of camp. It did prove to me that I could deal with adversity."

Although his hands could go at any time during a fight, Figueroa said he is going into his next fight healthy.

For that next fight, Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KOs) is moving up another two weight classes and will take on Mexico's Antonio DeMarco (31-5-1, 23 KOs), also a former lightweight titlist, in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight bout in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC on Saturday night (NBC, 8:30 ET) at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

They were originally scheduled to fight on Sept. 26 on heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder's undercard until Figueroa was forced to withdraw because of, you guessed it, an injury -- this one to his elbow.

In the scheduled 12-round co-feature, former two-time heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs), 34, of Riverside, California, will square off with friend and former sparring partner Travis Kauffman (30-1, 22 KOs), 30, of Reading, Pennsylvania, who is taking a big step up in competition.

Figueroa said the elbow problem is behind him and his hands are feeling as good as they have in a long time.

"I'm excited to get in the ring and see what I can do. I haven't been healthy enough to reach my full potential and I'm excited to see where I am right now," said Figueroa, who turns 26 on Sunday. "I can't wait to see what I can do and I can't wait to give them a great show. I love San Antonio and we're not going to disappoint. It's going to be a war and I'm coming out victorious.

"Training camp has been phenomenal. I don't think it could have gone any better. Considering everything I've been through this year, it's such a breath of fresh air to be able to actually train and train to my fullest."

Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, has been in some brutal fights. Besides the slugfest with Burns, his most memorable fight came in a hellacious battle with Japan's Nihito Arakawa in a July 2013 interim lightweight title bout. It was a war from start to finish with Figueroa winning a unanimous decision.

"I think I'm definitely getting better," Figueroa said. "We never stop improving and if we do, that's when our careers end. We always try to learn and see what we can do better and where we can progress. It's a journey that we're not even halfway through.

Editor's Picks Figueroa: 'I have to win, and I will win at all costs' There's a warrior spirit inside unbeaten Omar Figueroa, and it comes out each time he's tested in the ring. He will have the chance to show it against veteran Antonio DeMarco on Saturday.

There's a warrior spirit inside unbeaten Omar Figueroa, and it comes out each time he's tested in the ring. He will have the chance to show it against veteran Antonio DeMarco on Saturday.

"I don't think I had the best performance against Ricky Burns in May. Considering I had a fractured hand through camp, I couldn't really train in camp. I beat a former world champion and I did it without training as much as I'd like."

The fight with DeMarco figures to be a high-contact battle, something Figueroa professes to enjoy.

"To me, a fight is a fight. I enjoy fighting," Figueroa said. "I love being in the ring. I'm excited for it. I can't wait. I just want to perform and see how I feel.

"I think Antonio DeMarco is a perfect fit for my style. He's really tough but he has flaws. He leaves the body open and that's something I think we can exploit. If all goes to plan, we'll come out victorious."

DeMarco, a 29-year-old southpaw, has lost two fights in a row, a decision in a junior welterweight title bout to Jessie Vargas in 13 months ago and a shutout 10-round decision to former junior lightweight titlist Rances Barthelemy on June 21. DeMarco looked so bad against Barthelemy and was so discouraged by the outcome that he announced his retirement a few days later.

But, sure enough, a few weeks later he announced he was coming back. His retirement lasted less time than most training camps, and he signed to fight Figueroa.

"People have asked why I came back? Well you will find out on Saturday night," DeMarco said. "I'm coming back for the love of the sport. I want to show everybody that has wrote me off that I'm still here and dangerous. They're going to eat their words Sunday morning.

"I had previously retired due to personal reasons, but boxing is such a big part of my life. It brought me out of the streets and given my family a good life. I've been able to help my sister, who has battled cancer but is now healthy. I couldn't leave a sport that has helped so many people. I'm back with my old trainer, who has helped me reach the best moments of my career. Romulo Quirarte and I are working hard to get back to that level."

DeMarco expects a good, old-fashioned slugfest with Figueroa.

"Mexican blood runs through my veins and when you get two Mexican fighters inside the ring, expect a terrific fight," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Omar. He's undefeated and he's done some really good things in this sport. It's a hard fight, but it's a hard fight for both of us. It's not going to be easy for Omar.

"I want the fans to see a great fight. It's going to be a war. Two Mexicans, with Mexican blood is always a great fight. I've trained for a war and I'll show everyone that I'm ready when I step into that ring."

Figueroa said however the fight plays out he is grateful to be able to go into the ring feeling as good he has in quite some time.

"Mentally, knowing that my body feels good, it makes everything better," he said. "I sparred for the first time in two years [recently] and I felt great. I almost cried I felt so good. It was a good feeling. I am hoping that 2016 is a healthy year and that I get big fights because I know I'm going to be a lot better next year."

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