Interview With Frankie "El Gato" Figueroa

By Socrates Palmer


Interview With Frankie "El Gato" Figueroa

El Gato Ready to Roll Past Rios

The Bronx is one of the five boroughs of New York City. It is the city's northernmost borough; it is the only one that is part of the mainland United States. It’s also the one that is not situated on an island and over, 1.35 million people live within its borders. It’s the headquarters of the most successful sports franchise in the world the New York Yankees. The Everlast boxing company once called a South Bronx neighborhood its home. It's where people like Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain resided. It’s also the birthplace of hip hop, break dancing. On Saturday November 11th two of its native sons Francisco “El Gato” Figueroa and “Mr.” Joey Rios will meet to decide who the best Bronxite in the business is. The world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden will be the stage that these two men will tell this Bronx tale. was able to catch up with “El Gato,” to discuss and dissect the biggest fight in his career.

“I could not be any more ready, I’ve had a tremendous camp. It’s a great honor to be fighting on the under-card of the Klitchko versus Brock title fight. Plus fighting at Madison Square Garden it’s going to be a very special night for me. I know people say it all the time, but it’s really an honor to be fighting there, I can’t wait until November 11th”, said Figueroa.

Figueroa and Rios are both of Puerto Rican heritage, both men were born and raised in the Bronx.  Both Figueroa and Rios are former New York Daily News Golden Glove champions. Subsequently, this is where the similarities pretty much end. Personality wise they are night and day. Figueroa is the constant self promoter. Back in August of 2005, in the days that preceded Figueroa wining his New York State title against Hector Alejandro, he strutted through a Broadway Boxing event as if he were Spartacus with his newly won trophy strapped on his shoulder. Rios on the other hand is the more conservative, laid back type at times even aloof individual. Stylistically as boxers they are even more polar opposites of each other. Rios is an orthodox, disciplined classic pugilist. Figueroa is a flashy southpaw who is constantly moving and pouncing around the ring. His in ring antics are described as “flow-boating” rather than showboating, by the 28 year old Figueroa.

“First thing I thought about when they called me for the fight was this is the Battle of the Bronx. I’m old school man. I go back to freestyle battling, as a kid it was block versus block in tackle football in the street. I played sports in high school, and the way it is you always want to represent the Bronx. Even before you think of winning the state title in you want to be known as the best in the Bronx. I want to be the best fighter in the world but it first starts off with me holding down the Bronx. Its funny because I’ve had people come up to me, once they hear that I’m from the Bronx, and have asked me do I know Joey and I say yeah I know him. Now I am going to have a different answer. Yeah I know Joey, I beat him,” stated Figueroa.

Figueroa who owns a record of 13-2, with 10 knockouts to his credit, will be putting up his New York State junior welterweight title on the line in this 10 round encounter. Rios who is undefeated at 14-0 has never faced an opponent with as good a resume as Figueroa. This is something that Figueroa feels will be big edges for him come Saturday night.

 “In the past 6 months, I’ve sparred against world champions. I sparred with Vivian Harris, I helped Ricky Hatton get ready to fight Collazo, I sparred with Arturo Gatti, I’ve worked on a world class level,” said Figueroa.

“I think Joey is good, but he has never been in there with someone like me. I think his people are making a mistake fighting me. I also give them a lot of credit for stepping up and fighting me. They could have taken an easier fighter, but this is a big step up for him. I’m stronger than Joey, I’m faster, I’m a better athlete and I really believe that he bit off more than he can chew,” said Figueroa.

Figueroa, whom is never short on confidence before stepping into the ring against anyone, is extremely confident that he will come out with his hand raised in victory over Rios. Figueroa is quick to mention that he is not taking Joey lightly and that he respects his opponent.

“I respect Joey he is a good fighter. He is very good technically and in that aspect, but I just think he is too basic, he is text book,” said Figueroa.
Figueroa referred to Joey as being a very cool guy; however he says that he would not consider each other friends. Figueroa says the two had never hung out together outside of the usual New York boxing scene, where most fighters bump into their colleagues. He said that they have always been very cordial with each other.  At one point the two fellow Bronxites actually trained at the same gym together for a brief stint. Figueroa said that while he enjoyed his time working out with team Rios that he was not able to continue with them, because at the time he was working a full time job.

“We sparred twice and I pretty much had my way with him. I know sparring and an actually real fight are totally different, but I don’t expect to see anything that I have not seen in the past from him. He needs to worry about fighting me with 8 ounce gloves instead of the 16 ounce gloves we used in the gym. He knows what happened in the gym ask him, he knows what the deal is,” said Figueroa.

“I would like to say to team Rios, thank you for challenging for my belt. But the fight was lost by you once you thought of fighting me. Why would Joey Rios want to fight me? I’m no bum, I’m no slouch. I’m going to pound that dude out,” said Figueroa.

Figueroa who grew up in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, which is the same neighborhood that the legendary “Raging Bull” Jake Lamotta resided, says that his triumph over the undefeated Rios will be the springboard to being recognized as not only the best fighter in the Bronx, but to be the best fighter in New York City. He is putting all other New York junior welterweights on notice he says.

“If you want to be considered the best in the area, than stop fighting nobodies, me and Joey are setting the standards that two young and hungry prospects should not be afraid to fight each other”, said Figueroa.

Figueroa who spent the better half of October in Miami training for this fight claims that he is reborn. “El Gato” just signed a promotional contract with “SeeNo Group” Promotions. They are headed by Yaseen Malnik an entrepreneur from Miami, Florida.

“I’ve been treated like a world champion. I’m in terrific condition, I’m eating normal and I’ve never been able to do this before. I’m ready to give the best performance ever,” said Figueroa.

Figueroa is aware that Rios has been a big draw when he has fought around the tri-state area. Figueroa is also not faded that Rios will have a loud rooting section at MSG.

“He may bring a bigger, Bronx crowd but I have the whole city behind me. No one knows who Joey is outside of the Bronx”, said Figueroa.

“I’m not going back to my hood a loser. Never! I’m willing to die in that ring”, exclaimed Figueroa.

Figueroa and Rios will be taking a regional rivalry to the big time and those who are lucky enough to be at the arena will become witnesses to this. Criticism may also be warranted that Figueroa and Rios are putting up a lot for little in return financially. Not to mention that this bout is off television. In my opinion both men should be commended. As a Bronx resident I’m proud to see these two Bronx boxers laying it all on the line. Victory could be monumental and defeat might be devastating. As a New York boxing scene aficionado, its a breath of fresh of air to see two evenly matched fighters, fighting someone with a pulse, instead of the usual hand picked, Southern Bum of the month that many of these New York up and coming fighters are fed. This is a terrific contrast in styles and should serve as a true measuring stick on the status of both of these young men’s careers. This may even conjure up images of Hector Camacho Sr. and Edwin “El Chapo” Rosario who dueled in the same venue, 20 years ago. Ok, this may not be for a world title fight, but you be the one and tell them that its not the biggest fight of their lives.

For those of you who want more on El Gato check out his website,


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