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| | Francisco "El Gato" Figueroa interview
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With a fighter winning his first legit championship belt, you might expect him to be bombastic beyond the point of bragging to sheer self-adulation. And if you seen the new NABF Junior Welterweight champion Francisco "El Gato" Figueroa, Jr., you'd see the exact opposite. I caught up with the champ the day after his 12th round knockout win over seasoned veteran Ubaldo Hernandez. |
July 29, 2007, 7:01PM
Ryan: Am I speaking with the new NABF Jr. Welterweight champion Francisco "El Gato" Figueroa?
Francisco Figueroa: Yeah, yeah man, how's it going? I just got back from a nice little five star meal, so feeling good man.
Ryan: Cool, cool. Well, thanks so much for helping out with this interview and with the website, it's really kind of you to let us be the first to do a full interview.
Gato: No problem man.
Ryan: So, Champ... how does that sound? I mean, has it all sank in and settled yet?
Gato: Yeah, it settled in pretty much after the fight. I mean, the fight was very tough but I came out victorious, and it was all my fans. My fans, the Team Gato fans, they're not here for an entourage or nothing, and so I want to give it back to them, you know? I give back, and I try to stay humble, and my team respects that.
Ryan: So what was the first thing you did after the fight?
Gato: We, uh, we went back to the hotel, and you know, the hotel had a little bar there, so I met up with my mom and my girlfriend, and my sister and some friends, you know... I was mingling with the crowd but mainly watching them.
Ryan: Let's talk about last night's fight. Your opponent, Ubaldo Hernandez, had a pretty spotty record of 22-17-2, but he had been in there with some serious opposition, like Vivian Harris and Miguel Cotto, a man you sparred for. What did you know about him before the fight? What were your thoughts coming into the fight?
Gato: I didn't know anything about him really... at the press conference I told people I still didn't even know how he looked... turns out the dude is only two seats away! He kinda looked like a schoolteacher, he looked like he never boxed before... he looked like how his record was. But the fight was definitely different, you know? He kept moving forward and forward and forward, you know. But you know, I'm not a sucker, I'm not no punk, neither is he, he ain't a sucker, he ain't a punk, but I had the heart and the balls to win, and he suffered from the knock-through-the-ropes effect.
Ryan: And what were you thinking when he went through?
Gato: I was impressed, really. I mean, he made no attempt to get up. He was out for the count. KO. I was impressed really, I mean, I had stopped guys on head and body shots, but never put a guy through the ropes. There were some nicks and clicks, but I knew the fight was over.
Ryan: This has been a long time coming for you, hasn't it? When you first got into boxing, was this even part of the picture?
Gato: I had no idea. You know, my whole career has been in and out of talks, and I just keep concentrating on living life, and I live my life through boxing and I live my life in the streets, you know? Do what I gotta do. That's about it. I mean, I would've fought this guy regardless, for the NABF belt or no belt, I would fight him regardless. The belt is just a better way to prove my case.
Ryan: You take a lot of pride in your New York roots, even calling your fight with Joey Rios in November 2006 "The Battle for the Bronx Championship." What was your childhood like, and what did growing up in the Bronx and boxing in New York bring to your fight plan today?
Gato:I think living in the Bronx at a young age taught me that mentality of if you want things the way you want it, you gotta get it yourself. There's no "please help me," you have to be a man or a woman and step up and get it yourself. Growing up with that urban life, it gives you that crab in the bucket mentality.
Ryan: What's that?
Gato: The crab in the bucket idea is where you're trying to succeed by getting out of that bucket, but the other crabs are bringing you down, and you know, sometimes friends and family sometimes bring you down. But over the years, I learned I had to do things my way, you know? That's the hustle game. You gotta get things by yourself.
Ryan: And you're currently living in Florida, going to be training in Vero Beach soon... is it a big change?
Gato: Yeah, it's a real big change. In fact I'm not going back to New York just yet. My son (Francisco III, a.k.a. "Gatito") is coming down August 13 for about 10 days and we're going to go to Sea World, so I'm excited about that... Sea World, not Disneyland.
Ryan: Not Disney World? You're going to diss my former company like that?
Gato: (laughs) Yeah, it's like that!
Ryan: And who has your son been staying with while you've been training?
Gato: With his mom in New York.
Ryan: How would you describe yourself as a fighter?
Gato: As a boxer-puncher. A boxer-puncher-killer.
Ryan: In an interview with Primero Round Magazine as "Boxing's Best Kept Secret." After capturing the NABF belt, is it time for Gato to hit the big time?
Gato: Yeah, what I mean is that I'm boxing's best kept secret until I make a big debut on national television, like ESPN or HBO or Showtime or something.
Ryan: How do you feel about having that moniker, that nickname?
Gato:It feels great. It's a great buzz and a buzz that me and my fans love.
Ryan: As you probably know, there's a LOT of talent in the division just above you in the welterweights... Any thoughts about going up?
Gato: Naw, not really. I want to win a world junior. welterweight title, then maybe start thinking about going up.
Ryan: What's your take on the welterweight division right now?
Gato: You know, I like people who wanna fight. I like fighters with heart, like people like Arturo Gatti, you know? They don't gotta be undefeated, you know? I like good, fart smiters-- (laughter in background)
Ryan: (laughing) Oh really, you like good fart smiters?
Gato: (laughing) Yeah, that's it I like good fart smiters! Naw, I like good smart fighters, you know? They don't have to be undefeated. I mean, we got a lot of garbage right now, in the sense of entertainment.
Ryan: OK, so what's next?
Gato: We're looking at Dmitriy Salita next, putting the belt on the line. We're both fighters from New York, we both sell tickets, you know? I have the NABF belt, and I'm giving the chance to a local fighter. Like I said, I'm trying to give back to the community by bringing the belt back home and giving a local fighter a shot at it.
Ryan: You just teamed up with Buddy McGirt to begin training you in Florida. What are some of the things you want to work on and improve with him in your corner.
Gato: I have no idea, you know? We'll sit down and watch some of my fights on tape, and we'll go over some of the styles that are good for me and move from there. You can't really argue with a two-time former world champion, you know? He knows what's up, and we'll discuss it.
Ryan: Alright, so if we did this interview one, maybe two years down the line, where do you see yourself?
Gato: World junior welterweight champion with a couple of defenses.
Ryan: OK, you got the floor. What do you want to say to the public?
Gato: To the public who doesn't know much about me, you know, I want to let them know that they can get to know more about Boxing's Best Kept Secret at my website, I think it's a phenomenal website, one of the best boxer's websites out there, at www.gatofigueroa.com, or they can check me out at www.myspace.com/gatofigueroa.
Ryan: Wow, look at you self-promote!
Ryan: Last question, and obviously the most important one of all, in your opinion, who would you say is your biggest West Coast fan?
Gato: My biggest West Coast fan? Oh, well, you for sure!
Ryan: That's what I like to hear! (laughs)
Word Association with Frankie "El Gato" Figueroa
Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say...
My son (Francisco III)
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
important things in life
Up my ass! (laughter) No, seriously, a really great supporter and friend.
Outside the Ring with Francisco "El Gato" Figueroa
What do you do on your days off to relax?
Computer and internet. I'm very very fan-friendly, and I'm always talking to my fans, you know, even if they want to critique me. Love me or hate me, I'll still talk with them.
So when someone logs on to your sites, it's actually you answering them back?
Yeah, it's actually me, I get on and I talk, it's not someone else talking for me.
What's your must-see TV?
I like my BET, my MTV, my VH1, I like my video so classic, you know, like the old-skool r&b, old-skool hiphop.
What's on your perfect pizza?
What other sports do you follow?
Not the WWE kind of thing, olympic wrestling
Did you ever do any wrestling?
I was 2 time state champion, 8th listed in NY, and wrestled in the army.
Huh, I never knew that!
You would if you had read my bio on my website! (laughs)
If you weren't a boxer, what would you want to do?
Just making ends meet, you know, 9-5 job, doing what I gotta do.
Five Questions of Death
1. You're going to start training in Vero Beach, Florida. Vero Beach has been the long-time spring training camp for which major league baseball team?
A: The Los Angeles Dodgers! Correct!
2. If a match was scheduled between current welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather, Jr, and star of The Golden Girls and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot Estelle Getty, who would you be cheering for?
Gato: (laughs) I'd have to say Floyd.
A: The correct answer is "This fight would probably never happen because Floyd would duck it." Tough break on that one. We would have also accepted "anyone other than Floyd Mayweather Jr." (JK Floyd!)
3. "Gato," as you know, is Spanish for "cat." In Spanish, please say, "My cat is stuck in your tree; please kill it with your penguin from hell."
Gato: I don't know how to say all that.
A: Neither do I! Correct!
4. Moment of honesty time... now that you've won the NABF championship belt, do you walk around the house wearing only the belt?
Gato: Naw, you're crazy man... (laughing) I will say this though... it's the only belt prestigious enough to hang on my wall.
A: Judges?.... They'll take that answer!
5. If you could fight any celebrity, who would it be?
Gato: (consulting with background) Celebrity... celebrity... Oh I know! Oh, what's his name... what's that dude's name? The dude from Diff'rent Strokes, the little dude... Gary Coleman!
A: I have Mini-Me wrote down here, but Gary Coleman is pretty much the same thing, so we'll give that to you! Four out of five questions right!
HACNews.com would like to thank Francisco for taking time out to speak with us and to his fans. He may be "Boxing's Best Kept Secret" now, but as his star rises in the boxing world, it's no doubt that this Gato will become muy, muy famoso. But he's not one to brag.
8/9/2008 WAIT FOR IT!