HOLLYWOOD, Florida – Omar Figueroa Jr. wasn’t the least bit surprised when he learned Monday morning that Adrien Broner pulled out of their fight.
Figueroa felt all along that Broner wasn’t taking training camp seriously. At the very least, Figueroa figured Broner wouldn’t be able to get down to their contracted weight of 140 pounds for a 12-round fight that was supposed to headline Showtime’s four-bout broadcast Saturday night from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (8 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. PT).
Sergey Lipinets replaced Broner on five days’ notice when Broner revealed that mental health struggles would prevent him from moving forward with the Figueroa fight.
“We were planning for this, actually,” Figueroa said. “We’ve been hearing stuff about him partying and drinking and still, you know, being his usual self. So, we weren’t expecting him to make weight.”
Figueroa, 32, weighed in at 139¾ pounds, as did Lipinets, on Friday afternoon for their WBC elimination match. Broner, 33, hasn’t fought at the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds since he lost a 12-round unanimous decision to Mikey Garcia in July 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Figueroa, who has dealt with his own mental health issues, doesn’t doubt that Broner should seek professional help. He just doesn’t believe Broner pulled out of their bout because he wasn’t mentally fit to fight.
“We knew he wasn’t gonna make weight, so we were expecting that,” Figueroa said. “But what ticked me off is he tried to pawn if off on mental health, because of the work that I had to do to overcome that, the work that I had to do to better myself, to get out of that hole I was in. And not just myself, but countless others that, you know, are going through the same things. And not just that, but the people that actually commit suicide because of mental health. I feel that was a huge slap in the face to all of us because I’m trying to advocate for mental health.”
Figueroa had high hopes for the promotion of his ill-fated fight with Broner because he felt that the former four-division champion could help him make more people aware of the importance of mental health.
“I’m all for Adrien Broner seeking help,” Figueroa said. “And I said it from the very beginning, from the moment I signed for this fight with him, that this is perfect for my platform with mental health because I feel like Broner fits the bill perfectly and I feel that he could make such a positive impact, especially with his reach. You know, he could use his fame and his following for good. But instead, he’s out filming himself partying and drinking and doing all these stupid things, when he could be using it to promote something good, like mental health.
“So, after hearing stories about him and how he was behaving in camp, and then him pulling out now, and then trying to pawn it off on mental health, like yeah, of course I’m gonna get mad. Because I put in a sh*t load of work to get myself to the point where I’m content and I’m happy and I get to enjoy what I do, finally. And not just that, but I know that there are so many people who are going through dark places right now, that are committing suicide, that are hurting themselves, that are hurting others because of mental health. And for this guy to just use it like that, like no.”
Figueroa has given up hope of ever boxing Broner, an opponent he has wanted to fight for many years.
“That’s why it kind of pissed me off, too,” Figueroa said. “I’ve been trying to fight this guy for the longest time. And it just hasn’t happened, so yeah, I’m done with him.”
Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs), a former IBF junior welterweight champion from Kazakhstan, is consistently listed as a 3-1 favorite to defeat Figueroa (28-2-1, 19 KOs).
Both boxers will end long layoffs Saturday night.
Lipinets last fought in April 2021, when Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs, 1 NC) dropped him twice and knocked him out in the sixth round of a 12-rounder Showtime televised from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Abel Ramos (27-5-2, 21 KOs) stopped Figueroa after the sixth round of the Weslaco, Texas native’s most recent appearance, a one-sided welterweight fight that took place in May 2021 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.