Vasquez Jr. overcomes, wins by TKO
It appears that the contract with a major fight promoter he was striving for is all but finalized for Sammy Vasquez Jr.
The Monessen native is expected to sign a contract offer sheet from Mike Tyson Promotions and fight on a Tyson card Feb. 22 at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa.
But with that deal so close in sight, it certainly didn't come without some tenuous and painful moments.
Early in the first round of his fight with Jamar Freeman Saturday at a jam-packed Court Time Sports Complex in Elizabeth, Vasquez Jr. nearly did something nobody else was able to do in his budding professional career.
He almost stopped himself.
As he was moving away from a punch from Freeman, Vasquez Jr. stepped back and over the leg of referee Rick Steigerwald. However, his foot brushed against Steigerwald's leg and his ankle turned severely.
Vasquez Jr. buckled to the canvas in obvious pain and briefly was unable to get up.
The huge crowd was stunned into silence.
After several moments of having his injured left ankle checked and then having it taped up over his shoe, Vasquez Jr. (12-0, 8 KOs) rebounded to score a fifth-round TKO over the game Freeman (10-3-2, 6 KOs).
After knocking Freeman down twice in the fifth, the bout was stopped after a Vasquez Jr. barrage at the 2:45 mark of the round.
“It really hurts right now,” said Vasquez Jr. as grimaced while putting the swollen ankle in a bucket of ice after the fight. “When it first happened, it was like instant pain. It was crazy. I was worried. That's the last thing you want to do.
“It hurt really bad, but then the adrenalin kicked in and I was able to keep going. But it hurts like hell right now. I'm hoping it's just a high ankle sprain.”
The injury had a lot of people worried, including his trainer, Bob Healy.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Healy said. “That was something he definitely didn't need at this point. But he showed the heart of a champion and sucked it up and came back.”
After Vasquez Jr. seemed to survive his first-round scare, he did something nobody had ever done to Freeman in his 15-year career as an amateur and professional boxer.
He put him on the canvas.
A solid left to the jaw put the lanky Freeman down midway through the round.
After a standing eight count Vasquez Jr. quickly moved in and knocked the woozy fighter down again.
After Steigerwald issued a second standing eight, Vasquez Jr. went right back to work and pummeled Freeman in the corner before Steigerwald stepped in and halted the fight.
“I was hurt, I knew I had to try and end it when I had a chance,” Vasquez Jr. said. “I mean, I wasn't looking for a knockout against this guy, who is really, really good. But I didn't want to have to stay in there any longer than I had to. There were certain things I do that I couldn't do because of the ankle.”
Freeman, who has been in the ring with some top contenders, said Vasquez Jr. is the best he has faced.
“He's the best,” said Freeman. “He's good. I felt I had hit him and when he fell it should have been a knockdown, but I take my hat off to him. He's the best fighter I ever faced. He is the only one who ever knocked me down.”
Vasquez Jr. will have his injured ankle checked and is hopeful he can fight on the Feb. 22 card.
“That's only three weeks, but we will see,” he said. “This is what I've been waiting for. I'm not getting any younger and it's time to make money. It's time to realize all of my dreams and make the hard work pay off.”
Team Vasquez Promotions promoter Sam Vasquez Sr. said his son will sign the contract now that the fight is over.
“We had the offer, but we had to get through this fight first,” Vasquez Sr. said. “He has waited long enough. It's time to have a deal and he has one.”
While everyone in the facility was worried about the injury in the first round, Vasquez Sr. wasn't one of them.
“I went up on the apron and told him, ‘this is where you suck it up and go on.' He's been in Iraq and there was no quitting there. He's not a quitter. I just reminded him of that.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media and he can be reached at (724) 684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.