By Alex Pierpaoli
On Saturday night undefeated prizefighter Elvis Figueroa of New Haven, CT, meets Devaun Lee of Queens, NY, in an 8 round main event at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich CT. Figueroa-Lee is the featured attraction of a scheduled 8 bout card presented by Raja Boxing Promotions. Figueroa, currently 12-0 (8) will be making his first trip through the ropes this year and is looking for his 13th victory. After an excellent amateur career and a dozen victories since he turned professional in twenty-seventeen, super-middleweight Elvis Figueroa has already made his mark on the sport, especially when considering he was never really that interested in boxing in the first place.
“When I was a kid I didn’t do no sports in school,” the 26 year old confesses. “None, nothing at all. I would go to school, come home, eat, and play video games.” And it was that sedentary after-school tradition that brought him to boxing.
“I never wanted to box to be honest,” he explains. “When I was young I was an obese kid. I was like 7 or 8 and a hundred eighty pounds or more…At the age of 8 that’s when I first entered, well, my dad put me into the gym, cuz like I said I never wanted to do it.”
Figueroa’s father sought help with his obese son from former boxer and current trainer Luis Rosa at his Boxing In Faith Gym in New Haven. “He asked him if [Luis] he could take me at the age I was and he said ‘yeah, I’ll take him.’ So I would go to the gym and like workout but like a lazy kid, a little chubby kid, Luis was like ‘do this and do this.’ And I would do it but not the way he wanted me to. I was there for some time and the weight never came off and then one day Luis said to me ‘I want you to write down all the stuff you eat.’ And I said ok.
“So I brought in a list and it was like one page,” Figueroa smiles. “I showed it to him and he said ‘Naw, that’s not what you eat!’ So he wrote down a list and it was, front and back, like a regular sized page! And he said mark off what you eat, put a check next to it.”
Figueroa got honest about his food and brought the list back to trainer Luis Rosa. “I nearly checked off both sides. And he said ‘you see all this stuff you checked off, you gotta stop eating this stuff’ and he did it in front of my dad as well so my dad was like ok and my dad got real strict on me. He had me like on salad diets, six days a week, real strict diet. My dad was a strict parent but it was for the better of me. We did the list and after I started listening to what Luis was saying I started to see the weight come off. I was in the gym for four years, training, and sparring, I would get beat up everyday, bleed everyday, cry everyday. I was just in the gym for four years until I started to listen. So at 12 years old I had my first amateur fight.”
That’s when everything started to change for Figueroa and he discovered his love for the sport.
“This is all I know how to do, literally. Boxing is my life. My dad put me in this, he said ‘this is what you’re gonna do to lose weight’ and I just fell in love with it. This is just me now.”
For Figueroa, his choice of weight-loss plan became a plan for life, a source of discipline and dedication.
“You gotta work hard If you want it to pay off,” Figueroa says of boxing. “You’ve gotta put in the work, you’ve gotta go through the fire and make sure you don’t cut no corners so that when you fight you feel good and you perform good and everything comes out good.”
That dedicated twelve-year old started to make good boxing as an amateur.
“In the amateurs I did a ton,” Figueroa explains. “I’ve won four golden gloves in a row, I won two nationals, I went overseas, to Russia and Ukraine…I never thought I could do all that.”
But what exactly was it about The Sweet Science that sparked his interest?
“I like the fact that, so much goes into it and you learn daily, you learn something new,” Figueroa nods, smiling.
“If you really dedicate yourself to really training hard and actually learning, you can see it display itself. That’s what’s like mind-blowing to me…you don’t stop learning. You put your best effort into it and you see it unfold in front of you.”
Now in training camp with Luis Rosa at the new KOKing Boxing & Fitness Gym in East Haven, Elvis Figueroa has learned much in boxing, and sometimes he’s surprised himself.
“I’m not going to lie to you when I was in the [Olympic] Qualifiers I would think, am I going to be able to win this? But once I step into that ring that switch would flip and I’d do what I gotta do.”
That attitude brought him an amateur victory over current undefeated super middleweight Edgar Berlanga and landed him a spot as an alternate in the 2016 Olympics.
As to the future as a professional, Figueroa isn’t motivated by some specific opponent out there on the horizon, he’s motivated by the idea of becoming all Elvis Figueroa can possibly be.
“I don’t have a dream fight,” he explains. “All I know is that I’m working to get up there to fight for a belt. I wanna be a world champion. That’s the motive of the sport, you wanna make it up there with the big boys. A dream fight I don’t have. I’m just focused on building my resume, building my career to get up there to where I can compete with elite fighters. I consider myself an elite fighter, but elite in that they have some top rankings and some belts. Whoever they put in front of me that I have to fight to have a belt. It’s all work at the end of the day. That’s how I look at it…As long as we can stay active, that’s the goal. We’re trying to get up there with top fighters and have our shot.”
As to tomorrow night’s opponent, Devaun Lee, 11-8-1 (6) of Queens, NY, Figueroa is ready for anything Lee may bring but he hasn’t seen more than a few clips of him on YouTube. To Figueroa watching an opponent’s previous bouts doesn’t matter much.
“Because what you look at in an old video might not be what he displays the night you step in the ring with him,” Figueroa says. “Once you get in the ring that’s a totally different ball game… I go in there to hurt you. That’s my job. My job is to hurt you before you hurt me. And that’s it. That’s just the sport. Anybody they put in front of me, I’m hitting hard.”
Devaun Lee has gone 8 rounds or more 6 times and has been stopped only once, by Shane Mosley Jr back in 2018. But Figueroa is ready for a distance fight if it comes and has experienced a gut-check fight of his own when he faced Ryan Adams in Orlando back in January of 2022.
“That one was like oh man, that was a teaching moment because you learn from every fight, you’re supposed to learn something new from every fight. And…you’ve really gotta be conditioned because it can be a long night sometimes. You can have a guy dazed or out a few times but some of them guys recover quick and keep going at it and that fight was like that. I got caught with one punch I didn’t see. We were engaging and he caught me with an uppercut. I wasn’t buzzed or see lights or nothing but I was like whoa, ok.”
Elvis Figueroa came away with a unanimous decision after 8 rounds that night and has scored two stoppage victories since. Tomorrow will mark his third time as the Main Event fighter and he likes that feeling.
As to the video games he still enjoys, Call of Duty is Figueroa’s game of choice. He’s a fan of the Warzone game mode and prefers the UAV as a kill streak reward. “Yeah, it helps you and the team.”
“Listen man,” Figueroa laughs. “I just got a PC. I just upgraded from an Xbox to a PC. Boxing, don’t get me wrong, is my getaway. But video games are also my getaway, my other disconnect. I’m 26 years old but I still sit in front of that computer and play my life away like when I was a 13 year old boy at my mom’s house.”
Tomorrow night the war zone for Elvis Figueroa is twenty square feet of stretched canvas and he’s shown he can blast away with both hands in there just like he does in front of his PC.