There's nothing quite like taking in the sights and sounds of a boxing card.
Whether it's watching the action inside the ring, where fortunes can be won or lost with one punch, or hearing fans cheer on their fighter, it's an experience unlike any other in sports.
And so it was Saturday night at the AT&T Center, where a crowd of 8,811 gathered to watch Knockout Kings II.
Presented by Oscar De La Hoya s Golden Boy Promotions and Leija-Battah Promotions, the card featured some boxers, including 23-year-old Omar Figueroa of Weslaco and Keith Thurman, with promising futures.
That San Antonio is a big boxing town was established long ago when local cards attracted large crowds to the Municipal Auditorium.
The city has grown tremendously since those days in the 1950s and '60s, and so has the fans' passion for boxing.
A title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker at the Alamodome in 1993 attracted more than 60,000, and a crowd of more than 39,000 watched Canelo Alvarez go against Austin Trout for the WBC super welterweight crown in April at the dome.
The fight of the night Saturday at the AT&T Center was the grueling slugfest between Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa of Japan for the vacant WBC interim lightweight title.
Figueroa, who attended Texas A&M before dropping out to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion, went toe to toe with Arakawa for 12 rounds and earned a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Figueroa: 'I have nothing but respect' for Arakawa
Although he s still rough around the edges, Figueroa demonstrated he has the mettle and skills to become one of boxing s top names someday. Arakawa was tough but Figueroa, who had knocked out four of his last five opponents in the first round, proved he has the stamina to go the distance.
The fight exacted such a toll on both boxers that they were taken to the hospital after their bout, Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez said.
They're OK, Gomez said. It's just precautionary. We want to make sure they're OK.
Bleeding badly from a gash on the bridge of his nose after taking an accidental head butt early in the fight, Figueroa hung on improve his record to (22-0-1, 17 knockouts). He also hurt both of his hands.
Arakawa took a worse beating. By the fight's end, his left eye was completely shut and badly swollen. But, he too, showed grit by going the distance after standing a stand-eight count in the sixth round.
I have nothing but respect for Nihito Arakawa, Figueroa said. He's a great fighter. I think I hurt my left hand in the fifth or sixth round. I dedicate this fight to all my fans, but especially to my daughter, Sofia Magdelena Figueroa. I have her initials on my trunks.
Figueroa, the first boxer from the Rio Grande Valley to sign on with Golden Boy Promotions, was clearly the favorite of the crowd Saturday night. Fans chanted O-mar, O-mar throughout the fight and cheered loudly when he unleashed a flurry of punches on Arakawa.
In the finale, Jesus Soto Karass knocked out Andre Berto 48 seconds into the 12th round to win the North American Boxing Federation welterweight crown. Soto Karass, from Mexico, ran his record to 28-8-3 (18 knockouts).
Another boxing card in works for S.A. in September
Keith Thurman, from Clearwater, Fla., stopped Argentinean Diego Chaves with less than 30 seconds gone in the 10th round to win the WBA interim welterweight title. Thurman ran his record to 21-0 with 18 knockouts.
It was exciting, very, very exciting, Gomez said of the card. We're already starting on Knockout Kings III. We would love to do it here in Texas. Great fans here in Texas. We had some great fights.
Gomez praised San Antonio in the postfight news conference.
San Antonio is a great boxing town, Gomez said. Texas is a great state for boxing.
Gomez said Golden Boy Promotions is working on another night of fights in San Antonio for sometime in September.
We want to be in Texas, Gomez said. We want to be here as many times as we can.
Former San Antonio world champion Jesse James Leija, who owns and operates Leija-Battah Promotions with partner Mike Battah, was upbeat after Saturday night's fights.
We're bringing them, guys, we're bringing them, Leija said. And you guys are showing up for the fights to prove once again that these types of fights don't need to happen in (Las) Vegas. We can do them in our back yard.