Boxing: Sergiy Dzinziruk

Vera in new role against Bondorovas

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
2:11
PM ET

It has been some time since Brian Vera has been considered anything better than an even-money bet in a big fight. Although his new role might take some getting used to, it also means that he must be doing something right.

Vera, coming off three straight wins -- including a major statement in a TKO of former junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk -- is the undeniable favorite as he prepares to take on Donatas Bondorovas in this week's main event on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y.

It's a clear role reversal for Vera (22-6, 13 KOs), who has become known for playing the spoiler against favored fighters. But he says the expectations of others won't have an effect on his approach.

"Being the favorite is different, for sure," Vera said. "I just have to get ready more now and not take anybody lightly. Nothing changes for me. I just get ready 100 percent. It's a little different position, but I'm good. Everything is still the same. You've got to be ready."

Although Friday's fight doesn't necessarily represent a stepping stone to something bigger for Vera, it will help to affirm the resurrection of the 31-year-old Texan. Since dropping a unanimous decision to Andy Lee in 2011, Vera has picked off Taronze Washington, Sergio Mora and Dzinziruk, whom he sent to the canvas twice in the first round before eventually finishing him in the 10th in an FNF bout.

"I've been getting ready for this fight. I'm training at Ronnie Shields' Plex Performance gym." Vera said. "I just fought [Dzinziruk] on Jan. 25, so I didn't have too much of a layoff. It's not taking much for me to get in shape. Lately, I've been sparring with Edwin Rodriguez and Don Mouton a little bit -- mainly those two guys."

For his part, Bondorovas (17-3-1, 6 KOs) is promising a war. Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, and now living in Chicago, Bondorovas, 33, doesn't have many significant notches on his belt, but he's coming off five consecutive wins -- the past three by second-round knockouts. Perhaps just as significant, he has been stopped only once in his career.

"I've seen a little bit of Bondorovas. I know he's a tough kid," Vera said. "I don't put too much into him, but we're getting ready for him like we get ready for everybody. I've got to make sure he doesn't go in there and do what I did to some other people."

What Bondorovas lacks in technical skill he makes up for in savvy and resilience. He moves through the entire ring and has good speed on his punches. And much like Vera, Bondorovas loves to exchange punches and push his opponent against the ropes.

"I respect all opponents and think about them positive because they are fighters like me," Bondorovas said. "What about Brian Vera? I don't know him personally, never fought him, never sparred, never saw him live. I saw some videos of his fight. I think his style fits to me, so [I'll find out] in the fight."

Vera's strengths in this matchup are his great experience and high-volume punching. He throws a strong jab and is constantly moving, which often makes it difficult for opponents to execute their game plan. A left hook upstairs followed by a powerful right is his bread-and-butter weapon.

Due to the fighters' similar styles, it's hard to imagine this fight going the distance. Vera may be the favorite, but he will need to watch out for his opponent's solid right hand. In May, then-undefeated Ramon Valenzuela Jr. accepted an open exchange with Bondorovas and wound up being stopped by an impressive right hand.

With the career-rebuilding process well under way, Vera has been mentioned as a possible opponent for middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, but that matchup isn't likely to materialize if Vera comes up empty on Friday.

In the co-main event, light heavyweight Jackson Junior Dos Santos (14-0, 12 KOs) of Brazil will face Cuba's Umberto Savigne (10-1, 7 KOs). Junior Dos Santos is coming off an impressive U.S. debut in January, when he notched a first-round KO of former U.S. Olympian Dante Craig.

Savigne, who lives in Miami, is riding an eight-fight winning streak, including a sixth-round TKO of three-time former world champion Richard Hall in May.

Vera strikes again, trips up Dzinziruk

January, 26, 2013
1/26/13
1:26
AM ET
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."

Boxing returns to Verona, N.Y., on Friday when middleweight contender Sergiy Dzinziruk, seeking to nail down a title shot by the end of the year, gloves up in the main event against rawhide-tough spoiler Brian Vera.

ESPN2 and WatchESPN will televise the main event (9 p.m. ET) and some undercard action on "Friday Night Fights."

The event will unfold at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, and the mainer stands out as a rock-solid pairing for FNF.

Dzinziruk (37-1-1, 24 KOs), a 36-year-old Ukrainian who lives in Germany and is promoted by Gary Shaw, beat Daniel Santos in 2005 to win a 154-pound crown, and held the title until 2010. He drew with Jonathan Gonzalez in his most recent bout, in September, so I expect him to be sharper and better motivated on this occasion.

"I felt like my last time out, I didn't capitalize on every opportunity that was presented to me. It was my fight to grab and it slipped away because I let it," he said. "I've prepared to get back into the win column, and anything less is unacceptable. I will define the moment and not let the moment define me."

The 31-year-old Vera (21-6, 12 KOs), who fights out of Austin, Texas, is coming off of a victory over perennial contender Sergio Mora last August.

"I respect every opponent, but Vera is a different monster," Dzinziruk said. "The guy never quits and he is always willing to take the fight to the most uncomfortable places possible. I'm willing to go wherever is necessary, but it won't be Vera calling the shots because I'm going to dictate the pace and control the fight. With my conditioning, I will systematically break my opponent down and reestablish my position amongst the division's elite."

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