NABF light welterweight champion Frankie “El Gato” Figueroa now has James “Buddy” McGirt as his new head trainer and the two are working together at Figueroa’s training camp at McGirt’s Gym in Vero Beach, Florida.
The Spanish Harlem-born, Bronx-raised Figueroa (17-2, 13 KOs), now fighting out of Miami, has cracked the top 15 ratings, ranked No. 12 by the World Boxing Council and No. 14 by the International Boxing Federation.
McGirt working his corner represents a move by Figueroa’s manager, Sal LoNano, to take Frankie to the next level and into a position for a world title fight by the end of 2008.
LoNano and Buddy became good friends during the Gatti-Ward trilogy, when LoNano managed “Irish” Micky Ward, and McGirt trained Arturo Gatti. They worked together as a manager-trainer act for the first time with Paulie Malignaggi, which culminated with Malignaggi capturing the IBF light welterweight title this past June.
LoNano, who no longer manages Malignaggi, signed Figueroa this past spring and he immediately set out to get McGirt onboard. “Buddy’s the best trainer around,” LoNano explained, “plus, we’re like family. I knew “El Gato’ was only scratching the surface of his talent; now Buddy’s teaching him. Frankie has a lot of talent but he hasn’t gotten to that next level, yet, where he can challenge for a world title. Buddy’s going to get him there and that’s why I wanted Buddy to train Frankie.”
Frankie gained invaluable experience sparring with the likes of Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Arturo Gatti. “I had Frankie in camp with Arturo when he was getting ready to fight (Thomas) Damgaard,” McGirt spoke about his familiarity with Figueroa before this training camp. “I saw that he had a lot of ability and moved well. But at that time he had a trainer and I didn’t want to mess around. That’s not my style. I’m going to be able to study him at this camp and then I’ll know a lot more about him.”
U.S. Army veteran Figueroa is thrilled to be working with McGirt, the former 2-time world champion and 2002 Trainer of the Year. “Buddy was referred by my manager, Sal, and they’ve done a lot of great things,” Frankie remarked. “He is one of the great trainers in boxing today. Buddy’s a down to earth guy who doesn’t get on my case. Every trainer critiquing a new fighter notices some things a previous trainer may not have seen. He’s noticed what’s been missing in my style and I’m walking a path with Buddy that I haven’t walked before.
“There was good chemistry between me and Buddy going back to when I was sparring with Gatti (end of 2005, beginning of 2006). He’s going to take me to another level. He’s accessing me now and we’re bonding. Buddy can be a joker like me. I focus on training but I also like to giggle and joke, not have a closed camp where nobody smiles. That’s my character, I’m a Gemini. I’m glad that Buddy has accepted me for who I am. This is my first elite training camp.”
Figueroa is in training camp preparing for his next fight, probably in mid-November, against an opponent to be determined by his promoter, Yaseen Malnik (Seeno Group), and LoNano.
For more information about Frankie Figueroa visit his web site at www.gatofigueroa.com.