By Jake Donovan
There’s a poetic tone to where Wilfredo Vazquez Jr is presently at in his career and the card on which he attempts to claw his way back into the title picture.
In an era where “Junior” fighters have burst out of the woodwork, Saturday night’s show in San Antonio features a pair of second generation fighters still out to prove their worth even after reaching the title stage. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is still forced to contend with critics, as he makes the second defense of his alphabet belt against Marco Antonio Rubio in the evening’s main event.
Still, to be criticized while on top is better than where Vazquez Jr. presently sits. The son of the former three-division champ from the 1980’s/1990’s fame seeks redemption in his vacant title fight against pound-for-pound entrant Nonito Donaire in their 122 lb. televised co-feature.
Vazquez Jr (21-1-1, 18KO) enters the fight less than a year removed from the lone loss of his career, a heartbreaking 12th round stoppage at the hands of resurrected veteran Jorge Arce. The fight ended with the Puerto Rican covered up in efforts to avoid an Arce onslaught, only for his father and trainer Wilfredo Vazquez Sr step in to rescue him.
One tune-up win later, the 27-year old – a pro for five years but still learning on the job – finds himself a massive underdog in what he views as the most important fight of his young career.
“I feel confident, very relaxed,” Vazquez Jr insists of this weekend’s showdown with Donaire. If history has any say in the equation, then it’s worth noting that the city played host to one of the biggest wins of his father’s career.
Wilfredo Sr. traveled to San Antonio 17 years ago to take on Orlando Canizales, a record-breaking bantamweight champ moving up in weight. Canizales was a 10-1 favorite to win a belt in his second division, but the 34-year old champ pulled off a massive upset in ending the Texan’s eight-year, 28-fight unbeaten streak.
Donaire (27-1, 18KO) enters this fight riding an 11-year, 26-fight unbeaten streak. The Fil-Am is regarded by many as among the top five fighters in the sport today. His bantamweight run was hardly record-breaking, but notable enough in its brief stretch to garner the attention of the boxing world, largely on the strength of his 2nd round knockout of Fernando Montiel a year ago.
Just as his father showed no fear of the more revered Canizales nearly two decades ago, Vazquez Jr. is hardly fazed by the spectacle awaiting him this weekend.
“It’s a challenge, no question,” Vazquez Jr admits. “But it’s also a great chance to demonstrate what I’m capable of. Most important, that I get the chance to fight for my title, which belongs to me.”
Of course, that title is no longer his due to what took place last May. The belt became available when Arce elected to vacate – oddly enough, in pursuit of the title that Donaire relinquished late last year once decided he was done with bantamweight.
Vazquez Jr would’ve much rather preferred to have faced the man who beat him in efforts to avenge the loss, but insists his efforts proved futile.
“Arce is a coward. He’s a little girl. He promised me a rematch and never came through. His word means nothing to me, and he means nothing to me.”
Conversely, there exists a far greater amount of respect for the man that will share the ring with him on Saturday night. While Vazquez Jr recognizes Donaire for the great fighter that he is, he refuses to buy into the suggestion that he’s presented with an insurmountable task.
“(Donaire) is a great athlete, but not a super hero like they want him to be. But he’s humble and demonstrated good vibes when we met. He’s earned what he has but anyone can be beat.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]