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Sean A. Malone There are few things in life I can recall as vividly as the first time I ever witnessed Rafael Casias fight. On a warm May evening surrounded by the stereotypical rustic western motif that adorns the interior of the Eddie Dean Ranch located in the decidedly un-rustic location of downtown Dallas. I was there covering the event for FightHype.com and was excited to get a chance to witness the George Galvan promoted card as many local fight fans had been extolling the merits of Fort Worth’s Jose Hernandez who was fighting in the night’s main event. What I was unprepared for was my introduction to the embodiment of perseverance that is Rafael Casias. Clearly relegated to serve as a sacrificial lamb for the debuting Joel Hernandez, Jose’s younger brother and a fighter who too was being trumpeted as a worldbeater, Casias entered the ring to miniscule fanfare. Sitting from my perch ringside, I, in my infinite wisdom, surmised that Casias’ chances of winning were on par with me landing a knockout blow to Mike Tyson. After all, the diminutive fighter hailing from Fort Worth was not brought in to win, and everyone in attendance seemed to know this. Everyone, that is, expect Casias. Words cannot do justice to the brutal opus of fistic fury that was witnessed when Casias and Hernandez traded leather. Simply put, it was breathtaking. That evening I walked away from the Eddie Dean Ranch with a newfound appreciation for the scrappy fighter hailing from Keller. My adulation was further solidified in the rematch between Casias and Hernandez, a rematch Casias had openly campaigned for. Again, these two fighters waged war on one and other for four solid rounds, but it was abundantly clear that Casias’ game had evolved to the point where he was boxing and slugging effectively. Though Casias dropped the rematch to Hernandez, the foundation of his reputation as a take-no-prisoners fighter was cemented. Since dropping the first three fights of his pro career Casias has gone undefeated in his last four fights. Due in large part to the universal respect afforded to him, and the fact that he now is promoted by none other than Paulie Ayala, Casias’ career has been talking off as of late. Casias’ last fight, a closely contested split decision victory over Edson
Renteria in August, caused some to question his dedication to the fight. Not helping matters was the public beef that had begun to hit a fevered level with Dallas’ Luis Yanez, a 2008 US Olympian. While the two have traded verbal barbs both publicly and privately, Casias is quick to dismiss the gossip and move past it all. “You know, I’m not even going to get into that,” states Casias. “Whatever happened, happened. In the past, Casias (4-3) was often forced to take fights on short notice which contributed to his three fight slide. Now, armed with a promoter and manager looking out for his best interests, Casias has more time to focus and train on the fights at hand. One such fight was a proposed November battle with decorated amateurturned professional prospect Ray Ximenez, Jr. The bout was to have taken place at the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma, however upon arriving at the venue for the weigh-in it was discovered that the commission would not allow a then 17year old Ximenez fight. According to the Native American commission overseeing fights at the casino, a fighter must be 18-years old to participate in a fight. Heading into that fight many were question why a fighter like Ximenez would look to face an opponent with the amount of experience that Casias posses. Casias looked at it as a business decision. “They offered it, we took it,” Casias explains of how the fight came about. “There’s no beef [with Ximinez]. I don’t want anyone thinking that. I don’t beef with the kid; I think he’s a great kid. It’s a boxing fight and he’s a good name and a good fighter and I’m looking to win.” Casias and Ximenez were to eventually tangle in the ring this February but a back injury Caisas suffered during training. Casias is anxious to get back to fighting once he is 100% again, but it’s not like he won’t be without tasks that will surly occupy the time in between fights. You see, Casias is an extremely busy man. In addition to being a professional fighter, Casias runs Fitness Fight Factory, one of the most respected MMA gyms in the state, along with heading up his own fighter management company. With so many hats to wear, Casias considers his team of support crucial to his success, especially his family. “My wife and daughter who support me like no other,” explains Casias. “No fighter can make it without a wife who is understanding.”
By Sean Malone There is an undeniable aura that surrounds the Philippines most popular citizen Manny Pacquiao. To see the diminutive pugilist in person is to witness a man with the build of a software designer who possesses enough TNT in his hands to stop a rhino. It’s a completely unnerving juxtaposition of superhero strength and human frailty. To witness this mystic is to gain insight on exactly why Manny Pacquiao is a global icon. After all, it’s hard not to root for a living, breathing, Superman. A high profile prizefight takes every stereotype associated with boxing and injects it with a healthy dose of steroids. Everything is bigger, better, more polished. There is tangible electricity that can be felt in the air. It’s a shared comradery of fight fans, casual observers, curious onlookers, and those who simply long to be part of the three-ring circus of events that surround such an event. But, when you add in Manny Pacquiao into the mix as the marquee attraction then this electricity takes on unfathomable proportions. While many would point to Las Vegas, the unofficial fight capital of America, as the perfect backdrop to stage a Pacquiao fight, 2010 marked a detour of this tradition by Pacquiao’s promoter Top Rank. Instead of using the bright lights of Sin City to entice fans to venture into the desert Top Rank took the Pacquiao Show south to Dallas and the hallowed ground of professional football that is Cowboys Stadium. Specifically, the fact that the current incarnation of Cowboys Stadium is a one billion dollar edifice to opulence that blocks out the sun for residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Arlington. The fact that Texas has no state tax makes it a very attractive location to hold a prize fight which along with some campaigning by Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones led to a March showdown at the stadium between Pacquiao and tough but unknown African Joshua Clottey. In terms of profit and hype, the Pacquiao-Clottey fight was a smash success. With over 50,000 spectators in attendance, that fight was deemed more of an “event” than an actual viable fight. Judging by the critically panned action, or lack thereof, during the actual fight such a sentiment could be taken as fact. Keenly aware of the cries and cringes regarding Clottey’s inability to engage Pacquiao in their March showdown, Top Rank vowed to give the masses a fight worthy of Pacquiao’s star power and penchant for exhilarating pugilism. All of which is why the announcement of a Pacquiao title bout against the infamous Antonio Margarito raised more than a few eyebrows. By now the sorted and scandalous story of Margarito and his loaded hand wraps has become old hat. He served his year-long suspension imposed by the California State Athletic Commission and following an interview process with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation was awarded his license to box in the state of Texas. This ruling cleared the way for Top Rank, Pacquiao, and Jerry Jones to once again sell the public on a fight at Cowboys Stadium. Of course, it was much easier to drum up interest in a PacquiaoMargarito fight. For one thing, Margarito is considered a name that even the most casual observer of the sport can identify. Granted, some of this may be due in large part to the hand wrapping scandal, but, it should also be noted that prior to that tarnish Margarito was wildly considered one of the upper echelon welterweight fighters in the game. When you factor in the massive Mexican population in
North Texas then you can see exactly why a fight of this magnitude would be perfectly suited for Cowboys Stadium. The Pacquiao-Margarito bout played out like a morality play of sorts. On one hand you had Manny Pacquiao, a bastion of good and right. The fact that he was a Filipino Congressman running on a platform to help his improvised nation only made for more global adulation. In this equation it was Pacquiao, the man who rose above insurmountable odds to become a global icon, who clearly wore the white hat. Margarito, on the other hand, was clearly typecast as the “bad guy” in this scenario. Labeled a liar and a cheat by his man detractors, Margarito was typecast as the big bully who was there to prey on the smaller man. Never mind the fact that he was widely considered the bigger and stronger man, but his relentless pressure and impeachable chin made him the proverbial Goliath to Pacquiao’s David. As the old adage goes, “styles make fights.” Nowhere was this to have been truer than when this fight was announced. What fans expected was the relentless pressure and power of Margarito going up against the speed and heart of Pacquiao. What we got was definitive proof that Manny Pacquiao is an all-time great in the sport. A fighter who transcends fighting. Much like Muhammad Ali captured the hearts of a generation with his fistic prowess and engaging personality so too does Manny Pacquiao inspire the same passion from today’s generation of boxing fans. Questions surrounding how Pacquiao would deal with a fighter of Margarito’s size and power (the “Tijuana Tornado” came into the ring rehydrated to 165 lbs) were answered often toward the later rounds as Margarito pinned Pacquiao along the ropes and landed shots that would have downed any other fighter. Pacquiao walked through this fire to land salvo after salvo on the iron-chin of Margarito. By the end of the fight Margarito’s face looked as if it had been stuck in a blender. In many respects it was a virtuoso performance from a fighter in Pacquiao, who puts on such performances regularly. It wasn’t as if Margarito was not a worthy challenger, it is just that he had the misfortune of challenging a legend.
By Karl Hegman “Victory over the Cobra is only a matter of quickness of eye and quickness of foot. Snake’s blow against Mongoose’s jump.”-Rudyard Kipling, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” Prizefighters live in a vacuum tube world of a remote and feudal age where philosophy is war-like, built upon the worship of boxing and violence. It is a potentially perilous lifestyle where few possess the courage to tread, where aggression is throttled at its source, and participants sacrifice their blood and endure nights of inhuman ordeal for a chance at valor and victory. The Elite Boxing Gym, located on the outskirts of Pasadena, Texas, serves as a brutal breeding ground for the largely amateur-themed populace that train there on a daily basis, and they all share the common bond of achieving boxing glory through intense and fierce preparation sessions. The Champion receives the respect and homage of everyone in the gym, and they believe that she is destined by divine right to seek and obtain domination in all of the sport, not simply as a homegrown athlete that has done well or poet of peace; but rather as a gladiator of virtue. Her sufferance on the unforgiving road and in the school of pain is significant, but the casualties she has mounted upon her opponents are far worse. In a career that has been branded by deadly and savage struggles inside of the squared circle, she stands alone at the top as a beacon of triumph and hope for United States amateur boxing dreams for the 2012 Olympic Games that are to be held in London. Flyweight Marlen Esparza is one of the most dominant and prolific American amateur boxing champions in the history of the sweet science. Her in-ring accomplishments have been nothing short of astonishing as she has garnered an incredible 5 consecutive National hampionships. She has achieved feats of triumph in the simon-pure ranks that have surpassed previous greats that have gone before her, names like: Bob Foster, Ezzard Charles, Carlos Palomino, Jerry Quarry, Marvin Hagler, Aaron Pryor, and Thomas Hearns. A strikingly beautiful 21 year old Latina with deep and dark almond eyes that are offset by a creamy cocoa butter complexion, Marlen Esparza has the high cheekbones that accentuate the broad, pearly white, and vibrant smile of a high school varsity cheerleader. Strong thighs and calves developed by years of cross-country running provide the fighter with the perfect base of balance and lower dexterity required for her bounding, springy style of maneuvering once inside the four turnbuckles. A petite, yet powerful striking machine standing at five feet three inches in stature, Esparza possesses a strong and streamlined set of shoulders and latissimus dorsi muscles which serve as the core foundation for the delivery of her rapid and venomous blows. Esparza’s pugilistic pedagogue and the architect of her success, rung by rung up the fierce fistic ladder to near previously unparalleled heights, is one Rudy Silva, himself a former 4 time Houston Golden Gloves Champion. A young man who is seemingly always polite and respectful beyond reproach, Silva has striven not only to excel in boxing himself, but to share his knowledge and philosophies of the noble art with his students. Influenced by her father’s love and passion for the sport; Esparza first reached out to Silva and entered his gymnasium when she was but 12 years old,
and although initially rebuffed by the trainer, Silva eventually acquiesced and took the eager and enthusiastic young girl under his watchful wing. A former troubled youth who was once inserted into an alternative school for disciplinary issues, Esparza turned her life around once she started boxing as she found herself immersed in the gruelling and demanding daily lessons of the taskmaster that is Silva. Silva crafted and formed his piece of molding clay both physically and mentally, instilling direction and confidence in his young charge that has culminated in a storybook, near unbelievable turnaround. In one of the greatest reclamation projects since Cus D’Amato Svengali-ed a wayward Mike Tyson into boxing history, Silva has guided Esparza to the 2008 Pan Am Games Gold Medal as well as capturing a slew of victories in International competition, including winning the Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Championships. Even more significant have been the accomplishments in Esparza’s academic endeavors. Once a delinquent and disrespectful youngster to authority, Esparza completed her personal circle as she graduated from Pasadena High School in 2007 and was elected her class President, finishing in the top two percent academically. Esparza was accepted into the exclusive Rice University, but declined the scholastic powerhouse to concentrate on her boxing career. Esparza has aspirations of becoming an anesthesiologist once her life’s combative calling career is over, is currently enrolled in online courses at Houston Community College, and puts in a full work day as a dental technician before heading off to her own personal sanctuary that is the boxing gymnasium. It is once inside these hallowed grounds that are the lifeblood of the sport that the metal jacketed mercenary named Marlen Esparza emerges. In a laboring training regimen that would exhaust the staunchest legionnaire, Esparza is up and running before daybreak, spars long and seemingly endless rounds, goes all out on the bags and hand pads, and finishes her workout with strength training on the weight machines. Marlen’s fighting style is sleek and efficient, non-flowery, and totally utilitarian. She is a boxer-puncher who has been trained to explode off of a short motion, mainlining her offensives in the gritty form of her boxing hero, the great Julio Cesar Chavez. Her series of heavy assaults are always launched in the form of elaborate and punishing combinations that are designed not only to score points but to maim and immolate her unlucky and unfortunate prey. Esparza leaps to the attack at the bell sounding the start of the second round in a local tournament, and hammers home thudding left hooks to the body and head, under and over, followed by scorching right hands to her opponent’s face, a lithe and attractive young boxer in her late teens. A wicked right uppercut snaps the girls skull straight back upon her trapezius muscles as she retreats into her own corner, and it is then and there that she is ambushed by the blood thirsty Mandrill who knows not mercy. Two left hooks ripped in and delivered with slaughterhouse finality from Esparza’s orthodox stance crash into the martyrs jaw as flecks of spittle fly from her mouth, causing the knees to sag and give way as she first wilts, and then collapses and falls lifelessly into the intervening referee’s arms, signifying yet another stoppage victory for the sinister hitting Champion.
2010 marked the first year Esparza has competed in the 112 pound division in the National Championships as the Olympics will feature womens boxing in three weight categories: flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight. Esparza had won her previous four National titles at 106 pounds, but the added weight has not slowed her down one iota, a fact that her three victims in the tournament: Christina Cruz, Cynthia Moreno, and Tyrieshia Douglas, all of them former National Champions themselves at an equal or higher weight level, can painfully attest to. Dancing is for a ballroom as far as Marlen Esparza is concerned; the ugly hunt is on as a booming right hand set up by two quick jabs jerk the Swedish boxer’s head up towards the searing ring lights as sweat and water fly off of her face. A quick shift to the right followed by a ripping left hook thrown with all of the homicidal ferocity in Esparza’s frame that she can muster up freezes the helpless young lady, and another searing right hand straight down the pipe smashes into and flattens the nose, immediately bringing forth a heavy claret of blood as the fight is mercifully halted by a referee who is one step too slow in his actions. It is her unwavering commitment to victory, attrition, and technical excellence that make Marlen Esparza not just a
name, but rather an emotion for the world’s best flyweights. She is a fearless battler expertly schooled in stealth and infiltration, and Esparza’s confidence level is supreme — she never dreams she can lose, she never allows the concept of defeat to enter into her mind. Esparza may display smiling features outside of the ring, but take one long look at her in action, and a trained and experienced observer can visualize that inside the hard torso lies the desolate and dark place that is the very heart of the hangman, and the soul of the sanguinary assassin. Double jabs and solid rights bite at the Brazilian’s face, causing the features to redden and blotch, and her counters are too slow and wide to land on Esparza, who deftly eludes and blocks the punches, countering with short and crisp shots of her own, hammering home stunning blows from both fists. Esparza snuffs her out with one final and fearsome blade of wrath thrown in the form of a malevolent right that bloodies the mouth, and drives the back of her head into the padded turnbuckle cover, ending the abbreviated donnybrook and signifying yet another moment of triumph for the depredatory warrior whose sights are honed in, and locked on capturing gold. Esparza has to spar with good male amateur fighters as she is so dominant
amongst the females, and she handles and controls them along the same lines as she does her female opponents in tournaments. No amateur fighter in the world can match Esparza’s intensity, charisma, and moves; she symbolizes all the good that boxing can do for a young person and has unlimited growth potential as she is such a devoted and attentive student of the art. I have a great deal of respect for Marlen as an intelligent person and an exceptional fighter who uses boxing as a metaphor for all of life, and a vehicle in which to understand all of life’s big questions. Marlen has managed to achieve the difficult task of bridging the gap between gender and boxing. There is no wild charging, head down slapping, looking at the floor, rank amateur swinging ala Laila Ali or Mia St. John here; Esparza is leagues ahead of and much better than both of them. Marlen is a centered and balanced fighter who follows through and delivers her shots with great conviction with snap at the end of them, polished and complete with an absolutely dynamic ring presence, and should realize her dreams of ascending the Olympic victory podium in the summer of 2012 in England. Rejoice in your halcyon days young Esparza…rejoice
By Michael Montero It was an energetic, lively atmosphere at the Avalon Hotel in Hollywood, California tonight for week seven of the World Series of Boxing (WSB). For those of you who are out of the loop, the WSB is a revolutionary league that brings together the excitement of professional boxing with the best features of the amateurs. Fighters don’t wear headgear or vests, and bouts consist of five three-minute rounds with professional style scoring (three judges applying the “ten point must” rule). There are five weight categories: bantamweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. Teams from three different continents compete with the winners of each division guaranteed a spot at the 2012 London Olympic Games. There are three conferences The Americas, Asia and Europe – each with four teams. The Los Angeles Matadors are the leader of the pack in the Americas Conference, having won six out of seven matches to date. Each “match” in the WSB consists of a bout in each division between members of the two teams competing. The Matadors have won 28 of their 35 bouts so far. Lightweight Eric Fowler is one of the most exciting members of the LA Matadors and fights with a fearlessness that’s fueled by his faith in God. “I give all grace and glory to God”, says Fowler just minutes after his latest victory. “I am where I am today because of God”.
Life hasn’t always been easy for Eric, who had a tough childhood and was out on his own at the age of sixteen. But through his struggles he met some good people willing to lend a helping hand. One such person was James Reyna, who owned a boxing gym in the Houston area and introduced Fowler to the sweet science. “James was like a father figure”, says Eric, “he took me in and got me started in boxing. At times he literally put food on the table”. Eric had his first fight at seventeen and hasn’t looked back since. “I was seventeen and fighting grown men in their thirties”, he says, “but I was stopping guys”. The man they call ‘Fearless’ fought in the 2008 Golden Gloves, wining a bronze medal, and was a 2008 National PAL Champion. All in all he says he had “about 90” amateur fights. Regarding tonight’s bout, Eric said he felt a little tense. He was on medical suspension after suffering a headbutt that resulted in a bad cut in his previous fight on December 12th. He noted that perhaps the fact he won his first two WSB bouts via knock out, he may have lost focus tonight. “I needed to stay patient and box more”, he says, “I felt he took away my jab. I got suckered into a brawl”. Fowler really wants the fans to know he’s more than just a banger, “I love to fight, but I’m a boxer. I’ve got skills”. Every boxer dreams of becoming a world champion, but for Texas bred Eric Fowler that’s not enough. “I want to give back. I want to fight to the point where I have enough money to do something for the people of Houston, of Texas. Like maybe start a non-profit rec center for the kids, so they have some place to go”. Eric wants to be the people’s champ – not only from his actions inside the ring, but outside. “I will fight and continue fighting until that happens”, he says, “I won’t give up”. I asked Eric if there was anybody else he’d like to thank and he instantly called out Undefeated Magazine’s very own Rosemary Clark and Michael Campbell. “They’ve always been great to me”, he said, “I owe them a lot”. Mr. Fowler represents the best of boxing’s character – a humble, God fearing man who gives all his heart and soul every second he spends in the ring.
LA Matadors roll on with clean sweep over
By Michael Montero Rau’Shee Warren vs. Luis Miguel Diaz (bantamweights) Cincinnati native Rau-shee ‘Baby Pit’ Warren is one of the most decorated amateurs in American boxing history and is an early favorite to take it all in the bantamweight division. An accidental head-butt caused a cut over Warren’s right eye in the second round, but it was of little consequence. He was simply too skilled and too experienced for the overmatched Diaz, who is yet to win in the WSB. Baby Pit picked his shots and controlled the pace en route to a dominant points win. The judges scored it 49-46 and 50-45, twice. Hopefully the cut Warren suffered won’t cause him to miss any action; he’d already missed some time recovering from a cut he suffered in his previous bout on December 16th of last year. Either way, the future’s bright for the Matadors bantamweight, who’s undefeated in his WSB campaign. Eric Fowler vs. Leonid Malkov (lightweights) This was the fight of the night in terms of seesaw, two-way action. LA’s Fowler and Miami’s Malkov engaged in a war that wowed the crowd with furious exchanges in the center of the ring. Both men gave and took and never stopped trying, but in the end Eric ‘Fearless’ Fowler came away with the split decision victory. The fight really broke out in the second round when Malkov (of Kiev, Ukraine) landed a hook flush on Fowler’s chin that seemed to only egg him on. Houston native Fowler started to find a home for his overhand left later in the second and began working the body in the third. By the fourth round both men were tired, but never stopped coming forward. The fight ended with both men slugging away as the final bell rang. The judges scored it 50-45 and 49-46 for Fowler, and one 48-47 for Malkov. With the close win the kid from Texas kept his perfect WSB record intact. Vyacheslav Shabranskij vs. Kenny Egan (light heavyweights) The Matador’s ‘Ukraine Pain Train’ knows only how to fight one way – going straight forward. Shabranskij (or “Sasha” for short) stayed undefeated in the WSB as he squeaked out a tough, hard fought split decision over Miami’s Kenneth Egan in a very exciting, hard-hitting bout. If the name Kenneth Egan sounds familiar to some of you, it’s probably because you watched him win an silver medal for his native Ireland in the 2008 Olympic games. But Sasha made his powerful presence known right at the opening bell and never stopped charging forward throughout. Egan tried to control the distance from the outside, but seemed to only fight in spots and have lulls at times. The Ukraine Pain Train looked more comfortable, pressed the fight and outworked the more fundamentally sound Egan. The judges scored it 49-46 and 48-47 for Shabranskij, and 49-45 for Egan. Sasha suffered a pretty bad cut that required stitches after the fight, but it’s unclear if he’ll be out of action for a while or not. David Imoesiri vs. Craig Lewis (heavyweights) Imoesiri (from nearby Long Beach, CA) was the smaller man in the ring, but that didn’t stop him from taking the fight to his opponent. Things almost got crazy in the first round when during a clinch the man they call ‘The Dream Catcher’ picked up the Gallos’ Craig Lewis and threw him into the turnbuckle! It was clear right there that the local kid was not to be intimidated. Lewis, a Detroit native, tried to control the distance on the outside with his jab, but Imoesiri worked his way inside with his faster hands and straighter punches. Round after round he’d time his man, lunge in, land a punch, then either dart back out before Lewis could counter, or simply tie him up. The strategy worked as Imoesiri scored a unanimous decision with scores of 5045, 49-46 and 48-47. It was a solid win that brought The Dream Catcher’s WSB record to 3-1. All in all it was a fantastic night of boxing at The Avalon Hotel in Hollywood. It will be interesting to watch what unfolds over the next couple of months as the 12 match season wraps up. If you would like to learn more about the World Series of Boxing check out the web site at: http://www.worldseriesboxing.com
Sean A. Malone Let’s be honest, any individual who laces up the gloves in order to pummel another human being into submission is by default, tough. However, within the odd and fascinating world of professional prizefighters, some fighter’s level of toughness far exceeds that of their peers. One such individual who seems to possess an unnatural level of toughness and guile is Texas’ own Brian Vera. There is “tough” and then there is “Brian Vera tough.” Fort Worth born but Austin based, Vera (18-5, 11 KOs) is a throwback to a bygone era when boxers took on the temperament of gladiators. Now of days it seems that our boxers are more enamored with the diversity of their stock portfolios than in the actual act of fighting. Vera bucks this trend with a grizzled determination and punches that hit like mule kicks. Despite starting his career of superbly by going 14-0 and winning the IBA Intercontinental super middleweight title, Vera was not touted or treated like a legitimate prospect or title contender. Instead, many in the industry considered Vera nothing more than a glorified club fighter, a dismissal that stung Texas fight fans who knew that Vera was as capable as any fighter in the sport. But while Vera failed to capture the imagination of the general boxing fan, his participation on the third season of the popular boxing reality show, The Contender provided viewers a glimpse into the determination and heart that fans of Vera had known was there all along. Being a part of The Contender did enable Vera to obtain a string of lucrative if not incredibly tough fights. But, perhaps no fight has done more for Vera’s reputation than his upset TKO victory over the once highly touted Irishman Andy Lee. Despite non-stop buzz and hype surrounding Lee and his work with renowned trainer Emanuel Stewart, Vera was undaunted and beat the living hell out of Lee over seven onesided rounds. However, since that moment Vera has gone 1-4 in his last five. But, in Vera’s defense his last five opponents have been a Murder’s Row of talent with a combined record of 104-2-1. That’s an incredible feat for any fighter to achieve. On February 4, on the eve of the Super Bowl in Dallas, Vera perhaps had his most transcendent fight to date. Headlining an ESPN Friday Night Fight card held in Fort Worth, Vera’s hometown, the Texan was thrown in against Sergio Mora. Mora, winner of the inaugural Contender season, was a fighter who is wildly popular and contains all the hype surrounding a former world champion. In fact, Mora’s upset victory of the late Vernon Forrest, and his subsequent draw with the great Shane Mosley had many picking “The Latin Snake” to easily dispose of
Vera in front of Vera’s friends and family. After all, for all the heart and grit exhibited by Vera, few saw him able to overcome the elusive speed and unorthodox boxing angles that Mora employs in battle. This is why it is funny to see how perceptions can be changed during the course of a fight. For Vera, no challenge is too great, no fighter is too tough and it showed that Friday night as few gave him much of a shot against the hyped Sergio Mora. But, throughout the fight it was Vera who did all he knows how to do, bring the pain throughout the fight. Yeah, it was Mora who was the faster fighter but his hand speed could not turn the tide that Vera was bringing with him in the bout. After being battered by Vera throughout most of the fight, it was refreshing to finally see Mora fight with a sense of urgency in the ninth round. But it was too little too late for Mora, despite the success enjoyed in the ninth round, it seemed that Vera wanted the fight more, closing out the tenth and final round in strong fashion in route to winning a spit decision victory. Vera, as stated before, fears no man. With Vera there is no flash, no posturing, what you see is what you get with him. He is a no nonsense fighter, one designed to grind out a win by walking through Hell with gasoline underwear on. While today’s modern fighter’s pride themselves more on how many zeros they can get on the end of their purse, Vera does what a fighter is suppose to do; he fights.