Sure, everyone is watching March Madness. And I am too. But I'm also making time to watch the boxing, and was treated to one of the biggest upsets ever to air on Friday Night Fights: Andy Lee getting stopped by Contender Alum Brian Vera.
But first the undercard:
Aaron Pryor, Jr. (9-0, 6 KOs) UD8 Alphonso Williams (10-4, 8 KOs)
I thought the fight was a draw, but I can't really protest Pryor eking out a tight unanimous decision victory (I can protest the ludicrous 79-73 card one judge gave though). But Pryor, a very tall middleweight, was sorely tested by a game Williams, who had him hurt in rounds one and seven. Williams had a tendency to throw wide and smother himself, which limited his effectiveness, but Pryor couldn't keep him on the outside -- a problem for someone as tall and lanky as the undefeated prospect. Ultimately, Pryor gets the nod, but he needs a lot more time in the gym if he's going to step any further as a professional.
Matt Remillard (13-0, 7 KOs) UD4 Jesus Salvador Perez (25-19-3, 14 KOs)
Yawn. Remillard looked ordinary, and Perez looked like someone who is now 2-17-1 in his last 20 (which the former title challenger is). Remillard did knock down Perez once in the first, but aside from that it was a rather drab affair (I'll admit flipped over to catch the basketball for much of it).
Brian Vera (16-1, 10 KOs) TKO7 Andy Lee (15-1, 12 KOs)
First of all, congratulations to Vera, who fought an outstanding fight. I admit, I did not give him a chance against Lee, who many thought was a burgeoning star. The first time I saw Vera fight, it was a majority decision win against Samuel Miller that I thought had a whiff of home cooking to it. The second time, it was him getting blitzed in two rounds by Jaidon Codrington. Lee, being a class ahead of both of these guys, looked to blow out Vera, and that's precisely what I thought would happen.
And in the first round, all signs pointed to my prediction being accurate, with Lee scoring a knockdown. But Vera stormed back and began to hurt Lee, simply through constant pressure and a good chin. I thought Lee blew some chances by not jumping on Vera when he had the chance -- he was repeatedly stunning the smaller fighter with lefts, but didn't follow up. Vera's heart kept him coming forward, and it's always a mistake to let someone like Vera stay in the fight.
In round seven, Vera had Lee hurt and was battering him around the ring. Now, I'll join the chorus of folks who question the stoppage as early. Lee was getting hit and was clearly hurt, but he was throwing back. In fact, he landed the last punch of the fight -- a solid counter reacting to a flush shot Vera placed that ultimately prompted the referee to step in. The ref had been giving Lee a look for quite awhile, but I'm not sure how I feel about waving the fight off in the middle of the ring when both fighters are trading. It's a controversial way for a rising star like Lee to lose his "0", and this sport has enough controversy already.
But none of that should be used to take anything away from Vera. He came back from on the canvas, walked through some brutal left hands, and took the fight to Lee. He earned a lot of respect from me tonight.