VERONA, N.Y. -- Brian Vera is no stranger to derailing his opponent's best-laid plans. An exciting, go-for-broke fighter, he has turned the role of spoiler into something of a calling card over the course of his career.
Vera rallied to stop then-unbeaten prospect Andy Lee in 2008 and twice has solved former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora in close decisions.
Facing Sergiy Dzinziruk in a middleweight bout Friday night at the Turning Stone Casino, the Texas tornado struck again.
Vera (22-6, 13 KOs) knocked down Dzinziruk twice in a ferocious opening round and survived a spirited late rally from the former junior middleweight titlist to record a 10th-round TKO. Not only did Vera outlast Dzinziruk (36-2-1, 24 KOs), 36, in an all-action bout, but he effectively ended any future hope the Ukrainian had at challenging for another title.
"Whaddya know about the Texas boys?" Vera said. "I come to fight hard every time. I just work harder than other fighters. I have a lot more heart than a lot of people. Now I just need to work on trying not to get hit so much."
Dzinziruk, who unsuccessfully challenged for the world middleweight title in a 2011 knockout loss to Sergio Martinez, was in dire need of an exciting performance in order to continue his hopes of fighting on American television after struggling in a dreadful fight with Jonathan Gonzalez in September that ended in a split draw. From the opening bell, he pushed the pace with an attacking style previously unseen from the overly patient and defensive fighter.
Unfortunately for the southpaw Dzinziruk, it played directly into the hands of Vera, who continually timed him with flush counter right hands. Dzinziruk was lucky to survive that opening round after a pair of brutal knockdowns, setting up a narrative for the fight's next five rounds that was essentially a broken record of Vera frustrating Dzinziruk's rhythm and tagging him with power shots in the corner.
"I think it's just me being awkward," Vera said of his success with the right hand. "We've been working on sparring with [junior middleweight Erislandy] Lara and working on head movements coming off the right hand. We worked on our balance, and I was able to throw from different angles tonight."
To his credit, Dzinziruk showed tremendous heart and never got overly frustrated, allowing him to rally in the middle rounds by making adjustments defensively and countering with his straight left hand. He appeared to seize the moment in Round 8 after nearly being stopped in the corner early in the round. Dzinziruk fought his way out by relying on his technique and rallied to cut an increasingly tired Vera above his left eye late in the round.
Despite carrying that momentum into Round 10, Dzinziruk ran out of steam after Vera cornered him one final time, forcing him to take a knee after an accumulation of punishment. Referee Benjy Esteves didn't like what he saw when Dzinziruk regained his feet, calling a halt to the bout with 1:50 to go in the round.
"I was just getting lazy [in the middle rounds] and I started disrespecting his power too much," Vera said. "I think he started getting a little more confident, and then I used that to be able to catch him later on with more right hands."
Vera, who embraces the idea of being called a TV-friendly fighter, had a lot riding on this bout with regard to how much longer, at 31, he planned to continue fighting. Given those circumstances, he ranks this victory as his most important to date.
"This is the best of them all because it's late in my career now," Vera said. "It's time for me to do something. It was either going to be [tonight] or no time. If I would've lost that fight, that would've been the end for me. I'm trying to get a championship fight and be up there and be known. I don't want to just [continue fighting] to just do it."