Any match between a fighter on the way up and one on the way down is a crossroads bout. Sometimes you get a collision and sometimes they seem to pass each other by because the fighter on his way down really is on his way out. It’s hard to know which it will be until after the bell rings, but when two men traveling in opposite directions meet, you always learn something about them.
Friday night from the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, middleweight Willie Monroe, Jr. used his speed, guile, and feet to earn a dominant unanimous decision over a tough, if shopworn, Brian Vera by scores of 98-91, 97-92, & 99-90 on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. TQBR scored it 99-90 as well.
Vera (23-9, 14 KO) entered the bout coming off consecutive decision losses to Mexican blimp Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and a stoppage courtesy of Gabe Rosado in a BKB bout last August. Monroe, on the other hand, was back on ESPN after winning the middleweight Boxcino tournament last year. If he was at all rusty from an eight month absence, it didn’t show. Monroe (19-1, 6 KO) circled away from Vera and popped quick counters whenever Vera attempted to trap him along the ropes.
The bout was largely one sided. Vera tried his best (as always), but Monroe was always a step ahead. The only real drama occurred in the 5th round when referee Benji Esteves called a knockdown after an off balance Vera’s glove touched the canvas. Like most, I did not agree with the call. The loss of the point seemed to enrage Vera, and he eschewed touching gloves in favor of lashing out with body shots and hooks. The aggression played into Monroe’s hands and at several points in the last 45 seconds of the round, Vera was badly hurt by counter punches.
Monroe knows who he is in the ring. He almost never trades recklessly and looks to pile up points while avoiding damage rather than risk getting caught doing something foolish. He’s now at a point where a bout with a top 10-ish opponent makes sense. He’s a talented and supremely skilled fighter, but I’d like to see what he does with someone who has the skills and speed to make him fight.
Vera is similarly self aware. He’s a grinder. He’ll take three (or 11) to land one. It’s a style suited to his modest athleticism, but at 33 years old, his best days are far behind him. I have no idea what Vera was thinking with his Cowboys loincloth trunks. Maybe he lost a bet.
In the co-feature, Brandon Adams (last year’s Boxcino tournament runner up at middleweight and an entrant in this year’s Boxcino junior middleweight version) blitzed badly overmatched Lekan Byfield in two rounds. Adams (15-1, 9 KO) dropped Lyfield (6-7-2, 1 KO) with a lunging overhand right in the 1st round and then dropped him twice more in the 2nd round, prompting the referee to waive off the bout. Normally, I don’t care to see tune up fights, but Adams did his job and ended it quickly. Adams is also a very likable young man. When interviewed by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after the bout, he spoke honestly about the experience he gained in the Boxcino tournament last year. He appears to be in tremendous shape, which is good, because his next fight is in 28 days.
The opening bout was a fun brawl between dancing welterwights Cornelius Whitlock and Greg Jackson. After a sluggish 1st round, Whitlock (3-2-2, 2 KO) floored Jackson with a crushing overhand right, did a little dance, and then moved so the referee could count. Jackson (4-1-1, 2 KO) managed to beat the count and somehow got his bearings back by the end of the round. Jackson stormed out in the 3rd round, hurt Whitlock with a combination, and then kept punching until the referee stopped the bout. Whitlock was not punching back, but he didn’t appear to be that badly hurt. I thought it was premature. Jackson celebrated by sprinting around the ring and then performing a dance equally as bad as Whitlock’s. Save for the dancing, it was a great scrap.
Rabies Watch: A very subdued performance from ESPN’s Teddy Atlas, but we did get a phenomenal new Atlasism: Fresh as a early morning sunrise. Instead of Teddy’s recent broadcast partner, Todd Grisham, he was joined by Joe Tessitore. Tessitore is an able blow by blow man, but he seems like the kind of guy who watches Nancy Grace and nods in agreement with everything she says. That’s not a good thing.