By Derek Gionta:
Popular Monessen, PA welterweight Sammy Vasquez Jr. makes the leap to the next tier of professional boxing Friday night, April 18th, under the bright lights of Showtime’s boxing segment ShoBox: The New Generation.
The 13-0 (9 KOs) prospect will face fellow unbeaten prospect Juan Rodriguez Jr. (11-0, 5 KOs) of Union City, NJ, in the eight-round opening bout of the televised portion of the card promoted by Mike Tyson’s "Iron Mike Productions" from the Monroeville Convention Center.
The venue, located twenty minutes east of Pittsburgh, and forty minutes north of Vasquez’ hometown, ensures that a raucous crowd sporting Team Vasquez shirts will pack the house in what looks to be one of the biggest events in Pittsburgh boxing for quite some time.
The former Olympic hopeful and two-time All-Army champion has been off to a fast start in his pro career, and hopes to show his stuff to the TV viewers and the rest of the boxing world.
"My career to this point has been great in the boxing world from the day I turned pro until now," stated Vasquez.
"I stayed busy and active in my career due to my father."
Vasquez, who turned 28 earlier this week and nicknamed "The Who Can Mexican," just reached his two-year mark since turning professional. He knew a steady pace and active fight schedule was the key ingredient for what he and his team hopes to be a championship recipe.
Vasquez’ father, Sam Sr., has promoted a number of the shows Vasquez fought on in the Monongahela region south of Pittsburgh at various venues and play’s an important role as his son’s manager.
They did their work the old-fashioned way and made the best of it while drawing a monstrous local following and grooming Sammy with opponents of various skill sets and styles .
"Vasquez Sr. commented, "I’m so proud of my son. Our family is very close and we have the best fans you could ask for. We’re very excited to be working with Mike Tyson and his company."
Jr. added, "I am pleased with the level of competition I’ve been in the ring with and the fans have been great."
"From what I know the people I’m fighting are more risky fighters than the golden spoon-fed fighters are fighting on TV."
Vasquez has shown very few flaws to this point, yet encountered a risk in his last fight, which was his first time on an "Iron Mike Productions" card.
Vasquez met a fellow unbeaten fighter Berlin Abreu, (7-0, 5 KOs) of the Dominican Republic, in Bethlehem, PA at the Sands Casino this past February.
Vasquez touched the canvas for the first time in his pro career, which I was told was more of a flash knockdown.
Vasquez rose to his feet and displayed a performance that drew a major ovation from the fans in attendance, many of whom made the trip from Monessen to support their local hero.
Vasquez scored the TKO in the fourth round as Abreu was out on his feet following a barrage of power punches. Referee Steve Smoger, who never allows a fight to end pre-mature, called the bout.
Vasquez’ cutman and Team Vasquez member, Mike McSorley, commented on the fight from his angle in the corner.
"Abreu was a bull. Everything he threw was with murderous intent. Sammy took his best shot, got off the canvas, weathered the storm, and systematically broke him down," said McSorley.
Now Vasquez will take another risk on a big stage against an unbeaten southpaw nicknamed "The Beast."
"I don’t know much about my opponent but his 0 has got to go," said Vasquez.
Vasquez trains in Colorado Springs under the guidance of Charles Leverette, who is a Staff Sergeant and Army Boxing Team Coach. Leverette also had the distinction of being named an assistant boxing coach of the 2012 US Olympic Team. Vasquez came two fights away from making the Olympics, but has remained with his coach, coupled with his long-time coach Bob Healy, of Pittsburgh. Vasquez and Healy shared many moments as Golden Glove Champions and a National Golden Gloves championship fight appearance.
The two have been in Sammy’s corner his entire career, along with McSorley as cutman.
"We train for every fight like it’s for a world title," said Leverette. "He’s had some great sparring with all different guys, he’s ready."
Championship traits go well beyond fast hands, punching power, and pedigree. Combining those features with loyalty, work ethic, a military background, and Mexican heritage, this blue-collar family man has a chance.
"I’m so grateful to have this opportunity from Showtime and Iron Mike Productions to have this show in my hometown."
April 17, 2014