By Jake Donovan
In what could very well land as fight of the weekend, Bryan Vasquez and Javier Fortuna square off in a bout with major implications in the junior lightweight division.
Their scheduled 12-round affair takes place Friday evening at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The fight serves as the chief support to a welterweight clash between Amir Khan and Chris Algieri, with both bouts airing live on Spike TV as part of Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series.
At stake is a secondary title, one that Vasquez (34-1, 18KOs) previously held before being forced to vacate at the scales prior to his last fight. Struggles in making weight was the only thing that went wrong for the Costa Rican ahead of his eventual 9th round stoppage of Sergio 'Yeyo' Thompson last December.
The win was his fifth straight following the lone loss of his career. Vasquez bravely traveled to Japan on New Year's Eve 2012, only to come up well short in suffering an 8th round stoppage at the hands of the excellent Takashi Uchiyama.
Fortuna (27-0-1, 20KOs) has yet to taste defeat, but has largely nibbled around the ages through six years in the pro ranks. The talented boxer from Domincan Republic quickly emerged as a top featherweight, turning heads with a 12-round win over Patrick Hyland in Dec. '12, on the undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez' epic knockout win over Manny Pacquiao in their fourth fightut.
The bout was Fortuna's lone shine as a featherweight, quickly outgrowing the division almost as soon as he made it to the title level. His very next fight saw his interim title reign come to an end, showing up heavy for an eventual 1st round knockout of overmatched Miguel Zamudio.
The struggles spilled over into his next fight, being held to a debatable draw by Luis Franco before settling down and peeling off five straight wins. Among his current streak is a bizarre 5th round knockout win of Abner Cotto last November, a bout that saw Cotto seeking the nearest exit nearly every time Fortuna landed a body shot that strayed near the beltline.
Friday's winner will become first in line to land a future shot at Uchiyama. Will Vasquez enjoy a third interim title reign and a second shot at the leading 130 lb. fighter in the world? Or will fresh blood emerge, with Fortuna staking his case as a bona fide player in the junior lightweight division?
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: BRYAN VASQUEZ vs. JAVIER FORTUNA
Ryan Burton (Vasquez UD): The Costa Rican out boxes and upsets the favored Fortuna.
Jake Donovan (Vasquez late TKO): Fortuna needing a zillion tries to make weight is shades of his outgrowing the featherweight division. The power hasn’t been there, and it’s going to take a lot more than slick boxing to keep the tough-as-nails Vasquez at bay. A competitive fight swings in Vasquez’ favor late, forcing a stoppage through accumulation.
Takahiro Onaga (Vasquez UD): Big fan of the Costa Rican who looked good against Uchiyama. I think he’s too tough and too good for flashy Fortuna who is all style, but no substance.
Cliff Rold (Fortuna KO): This should be a hell of a scrap. Fortuna has shown some weaknesses and Vasquez is coming off a fight where he missed weight. Add it together and both guys may see the floor. Fortuna will be the last standing.
Victor Salazar (Fortuna late TKO): Might be the best fight of a pretty packed weekend. I expect back and forth action between the two with Fortuna’s speed being the difference, stopping Vasquez late.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Vasquez mid-rds TKO): Fortuna as a featherweight fighter, he looked great until he started having problems with weight. Then his "victory" with taste of defeat against Luis Franco, sent us a message that expectations were not encouraging. Now, it seems that he is walking on the right path. Vazquez came to beat a strong fighter like Sergio Thompson, and has very good fights against strong opposition in the 130 lb. division.
Alexey Sukachev (Fortuna TKO10): Had it been staged a couple of years ago, I'd have no doubt about the outcome of this fight. But Fortuna, while formally active, was shelved for two years. Vazquez, on the other side, has visibly improved since Uchiyama loss. With that said, I favor Fortuna to find a way to stop Vazquez with his immense power even if he is far behind on the scorecards.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox