By Jake Donovan
In order for Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. to have a shot at a future in boxing, he had to come to grips with his past. The former 122 lb. titlist is man enough to recognize the wrong moves he’s made, and what needs to be done to right the ship.
“My father and I are back together as a team,” Vazquez Jr. (23-4-1, 19KOs) acknowledges, as his father—former three division champ Wilfredo Vazquez Sr.—has resumed his role as head trainer for his son’s upcoming November 1 ring return in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “I made a bad decision in my career, but it was something I had to go through to learn for myself.”
The November 1 bout in Puerto Rico will come against Jonathan Arrellano (15-3-1, 4KOs) who comes equipped with his own capable corner. The Californian is trained by well-respected Henry Ramirez, best-known for his years spent molding the careers of heavyweight contender Chris Arreola and welterweight spoiler Josesito Lopez.
All of the success enjoyed in Vazquez Jr’s career came with his fighting father by his side, including his 122 lb. title-winning effort over Marvin Sonsona nearly five years ago. The feat marked the first time in boxing history a father and son captured a major title in the same weight class, with Wilfredo Sr. having reigned at that weight for three years in the 1990s, coming in between championship tours at bantamweight and featherweight.
Following his upset loss to Jorge Arce in May ’11, the rift began between father and son. They remained together for several more fights, before eventually going their separate ways.
“We have a saying in Puerto Rico, ‘two crafts can’t live in the same cove,’ and that’s what happened between Papi and me,” Vazquez Jr. notes. “It reached a point where we were in the same space too often and I didn’t know how to handle it. I’m grateful for my father to be back in my corner, and I know that great things lie ahead.”
Overall, Vazquez Jr. has lost four of his last seven starts. Sandwiched in between setbacks to Arce and Sonsona came a Feb. ‘12 title fight loss to Nonito Donaire and an upset decision loss to Yasutaka Ishimoto in Top Rank’s first show in Macau last April.
The loss to Ishimoto, coupled with his struggling performance in a win over Guillermo Avila last September was enough to alert the second-generation boxer that sweeping changes were needed.
In came strength and conditioning guru Angel Heredia, a move that was supposed to coincide with the reunion with his father. The latter was supposed to take place prior to Vazquez Jr’s last bout, dropping a 10-round decision to Sonsona in their rematch this past June in New York City, but couldn’t happen due to logistical reasons.
The fight was his first under Miguel Cotto Promotions, after a split from long-time promoter Felix ‘Tuto’ Zabala, who raised him from a pup to make him a star in the Central Florida region on the way to winning—and losing—a title. Cotto and Vazquez Sr. remain faithfully in his corner, with all parties of the belief that there is still plenty of time to add a new chapter to his ongoing story.
“Miguel believes in me, and—most important—my father still believes in me,” Vazquez Jr. states. “After my last loss (to Sonsona), I thought my career was done. But with Miguel giving me the opportunity and Papi back in my corner, I feel reborn. This is a new start for me, and wherever they want me to do, I’m ready.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox