The return to the ring means more than just erasing bad memories of his last fight, a no-contest Aug. 22 after he hit after the bell down at the Brownsville Sports Complex. For Raul “El Tigre” Casarez, Friday night’s bout at the Casa de Amistad in Harlingen will be a chance to rekindle the momentum, as he was about the knock out his opponent before being disqualified. But more importantly, an impressive win over Harlingen’s hometown hero Gabe Rivera should be the steppingstone Casarez has been waiting for.

“Tigre” said Sunday night that he’s at about 158 pounds right now, waiting to see whether the weight limit for the Rivera bout is 154 or 160; he can go either way.

“I feel good, I have been working out hard for three months,” said the Edinburg fighter who is 14-2 lifetime with seven KOs. “Me and Amenaza have sparred over 170 rounds, and that has been good for me.”

The reference was to Roberto “La Amenaza” Garcia, the once dormant star who has come back onto the scene. The fight card, with these two big crowd draws, should make a mint for promoter Julio Marines, the uncle of Weslaco native Garcia.

For Casarez, the fight represents a chance for more action than he got last summer down in Brownsville, when he was pounding Adan Murillo to a pulp before delivering a shot after the bell to end the first round. And if he wins, there’s a bigger payday waiting.

“I got a call from Showtime, they’re talking about me being the main event on one of their cards,” said the slugging righthander. “That means I have to really take care of business Friday, and move up…they told me I could be facing a former Olympian on a card in April.”

He’s been fighting since 2003 and the 23-year-old Casarez always knew the turning point in his career would come. He had won five in a row before the summer letdown, his last loss being a 2-round TKO at the hands of Rudy Cisneros out in California, in 2005.

“Tigre” says his opponent for the night has a good punch and a strong chin, joking that Rivera is going to have to rely on the latter regularly Friday.

“Nah, I am ready to go, and will put on a show,” he laughed. “I am going to put that guy down and out, in front of all his hometown fans. You gotta come check it out.”

As for Garcia, 27-2 and back in the action under his uncle’s wing again after a hiatus, this fight is his latest on the comeback trail. After being inactive for just over a year up to December 2008, the 29-year-old has since won twice with one NC.

His last two tries were wins in Costa Rica, in May and September 2009, meaning that he’s been in the gym since then working his way back into form. He was once a world-ranked contender with a superb punch, and Friday’s return to the local boxing world should reflect just where Amenaza is at, career-wise.