By Austin Killeen May 21, 2016
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It was a big weekend for the careers of John Vera, Austin Trout and Fidel Maldonado Jr. as they appeared in televised fights and an opportunity to make a major statement. For the undefeated Vera, it was a big step up in competition in facing veteran Joey Ruelas. Former champion Austin Trout was fighting for the IBF Junior Middleweight Title against the undefeated champion Jermall Charlo. While veteran Fidel Maldonado Jr. was opposing another well traveled boxer in Art Hovhannisyan in a difficult matchup. You could get big odds if you wanted to bet the trifecta of Vera, Trout and Maldonado all entering the win column. All three contests proved to be tough struggles and betting the trifecta would have been a foolish choice.
John Vera (14-0- 0, 9 KO’s) 154 lbs. of Fort Worth, Texas won by TKO over Joey Ruelas (10-2- 1, 4 KO’s) of Phoenix, Arizona in the scheduled eight round semi-final at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center. Don’t be fooled by Ruelas’ pro experience as he had over 150 amateur bouts and was considered one of the top Olympic prospects in the country. Unfortunately drugs derailed his career including a lengthy stay in Federal Prison. I had the opportunity to met Ruelas, his wife and child when he fought at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix in 2014. He’s a reformed young man, with a beautiful family. He also has some pedigree in his bloodlines, as both his dad and grandfather where boxers.
If Vera and Ruelas had a feeling out round it took place in their dressing rooms, because they came out throwing at the opening bell. Vera and Ruelas worked behind right hand jabs, followed by hard overhand lefts. Both fighters are southpaws. Although Ruelas is an inch taller it was Vera who liked working on the outside. He would move in behind his jab, score and retreat. Ruelas had other ideas about that, resulting in some exiting exchanges on the inside. Fortunately Vera has a good chin; otherwise the result might have had a different ending. Although the score cards were never revealed, the first four rounds were very competitive, with Ruelas very effective when he trapped Vera on the ropes and in the corners. With room to work, Vera has a punishing jab and a damaging overhand right. As early as the first round, there appeared to be swelling on the left side of Ruelas’ face.
In the fifth round, the undefeated Texan started creating distance which allowed him to land some impressive right hooks and straight lefts. Ruelas landed a nice right hand to the head of Vera at rounds end. Ruelas appeared to be hurt by an overhand left early in the sixth round and failed to fire back. Seizing the moment, Vera continued to score with both hands to the head and body. Although under fire Ruelas appeared to be cognizant of his surroundings. I was surprised when Referee Jay Nady jumped in and halted the contest. I felt Ruelas deserved a few more seconds to see if he could right the ship. Officially the bout was ruled a TKO win for Vera at 1:17 seconds of the sixth round. Vera was also declared the vacant WBA-NABA USA super welterweight champion. Where do these titles come from? The new champ was impressive in victory, both on offense and defense and looks to have a bright future.
Austin Trout (30-3- 0, 17 KO’s) of Las Cruces, New Mexico lost by 12 round UD to IBF Junior Middleweight Champion Jermall Charlo (24-0- 0, 18 KO’s) 153.4 lbs. of Houston, Texas in the semi-final at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I had never seen Charlo prior to Saturday night, but was aware that he was highly regarded. One of the commentators at ringside compared Charlo to former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis of England. It didn’t take long to see that this assessment was fairly accurate. The defending IBF champ has a powerful left jab and a crushing overhand right. Defensively Charlo has above average skills as well, making him an imposing figure.
The first two rounds were fairly close with Charlo displaying a nice right hand while Trout was surprisingly aggressive, having success with his overhand left. Although it appeared to be risky, Trout was scoring with right jabs to the body, while Charlo was answering with left hooks. Rounds three through six Charlo took control of the fight, scoring with right hands to the head. Trout appeared to be carrying his hands low, making his face an inviting target. The champ appeared to have little respect for Trout’s power and was willing to take chances. By the end of the sixth round it appeared that Trout had dug himself a big hole on the score cards.
In the second half to the fight, the Las Cruces native staged a rally scoring with right jabs to the body from his southpaw stance. This was a very risky strategy as he was standing right in front of the power punching Charlo. Relying on his quickness, Trout was able to slip many, but not all of the champs jabs and overhand rights. Trout also had success with overhand lefts which seemed to earn the respect of Charlo. On several occasions Charlo was able to stage rallies at the end of several rounds, making it more difficult for the judges. This was an entertaining fight with many good exchanges, but clearly Charlo had the more powerful punch. In the second half of the fight Trout was cut over the right eye, but it didn’t seem to hinder him. Scores of 116-112 twice and 115-113 resulted in a unanimous decision for the defending champ. I gave seven of the twelve rounds to Charlo in a very entertaining fight. Clearly Trout is still relevant in the junior middleweight division, but his lack of punching power is a problem
Fidel Maldonado Jr. (21-3- 1, 18 KO’s) 135 lbs. of Albuquerque, New Mexico fought to a 10 round draw with Art Hovhannisyan (17-2- 3, 9 KO’s) of Glendale, California in the semi-final at the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California. If there were any prefight instructions on the part of the referee, they must have been that anything would be allowed. This contest would have been better served if it had been fought in an alley. Suspending the rules in a fight with Maldonado would not be considered good for one’s health especially having witnessed Hovhannisyan administer a terrific beating to Archie Ray Marquez, of Albuquerque back in 2011. So this fight probably suited bout fighters just fine.
From the opening bell Maldonado, a southpaw, had little difficulty finding a home for his powerful left hand. Unfortunately for the “Atrisco Kid”, Hovhannisyan was having the same level of success scoring with his right. There was a great deal of energy being expended in the clinches due to wrestling and punching behind the head and below the belt line. It might not have been pretty, but clearly both fighters were in excellent shape. In one of the early rounds after being hit on the back of the head several times, Maldonado looked to the referee for relief. The referee looked back at him as if to indicate what do you want me to do. This resulted in Maldonado taking matters into his own hands, scoring with a left hook some place above and between Hovhannisyan’s knees. The referee reacted by being stoic. In the eighth round Maldonado dropped his opponent with a left to the ear.
In the ninth round the television picture went blank, robbing the viewers the opportunity to see the referee effect the final result. Springing into action he stopped the fight and took a point away from Maldonado for punching below the belt. In all sports, not just boxing, all you want from the officials is consistency. Call it tight, call it loose, but just be consistent. Why after eight rounds did the third man suddenly decide to enforce a rule that he had overlooked for eight rounds. In the tenth round things were back to normal; the picture was restored and no rules were enforced. As a result of the one point deduction leveled against Maldonado, the fight was declared a draw instead of a victory for the Albuquerque fighter.
Killeen’s Note Pad: Jose Marruffo continued his comeback last Friday night scoring his second win in two months. He fought at 148 lbs. in scoring a unanimous decision over Arthur Brambila 145 lbs. of Phoenix, Arizona at the Celebrity Theater. Marruffo fought Jose Torres to a surprise eight round draw in Albuquerque two years ago. Working on a nine bout win streak, his career went off the tracks when he lost by two quick knockouts. His trainer, Jose Lopez is slowly reviving his career and his next bout will take place on June 2 in Phoenix. If Marruffo is successful he should be able to get a name opponent in the near future.