by Johnny Walker
No wonder they call the venue the “Illusions Theater.”
American middleweights Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora and Brian Vera met Saturday night in the latter man’s back yard of San Antonio, Texas, in a rematch of a February bout won by Vera in a split decision. And after a highly entertaining scrap, the judges saw fit to once again give the sport of boxing a black eye.
The fight pitted two very contrasting styles against each other, with Vera constantly pressing the action and relying on volume punching, while the counterpunching Mora utilized lateral movement and was far more selective and accurate with his offense. And as is all too common in this age of computerized punch counting, quantity won out over quality to an absurd degree in the case of two of the three judges.
The first round set the tone for the rest of the night, as the native Texan Vera stalked his man and applied pressure, while Mora slipped most of his punches and connected with the cleaner shots — in this case a hard left jab and a snappy right hand.
With his trainer Ronnie Shields complaining that “You gave that round away,” Vera picked up the pace in round two, launching punches that were again often slipped, but whose sheer volume prevented Mora from offering much offense of his own. The hardest punch, however, was a wicked body shot by Mora at the end of the round, causing Vera to smile a sardonic smile that let everyone know “Yeah, I felt that one.”
Round three was a more even affair, with Mora inviting Vera into the corner and countering the Texan’s mixmaster flurries with a sharp uppercut, before scoring with a nice right-left combo to Vera’s head as the round ended.
With the exception of round six, however, frames four through ten were in this writer’s opinion taken by Mora. Vera continued to press and often miss or have his punches blocked, while Mora was economical, countering Vera’s often clumsy attack with some accurate, stinging uppercuts.
Round five was the high point of the fight for Sergio Mora: he hit Vera cleanly with every punch in the book and totally dominated the action. During round six, Shields complained to the Solo Boxeo television analysts that Vera was giving a “bad performance,” caused by his lack of balance and his inablity to put his punches together. While Mora rested up a bit, Vera did score with a series of left hands and managed to take the round.
Mora immediately got back the momentum in round seven, connecting with a hard left hook and then a right hand that left Vera bleeding from the mouth. Vera demonstrated a rock hard chin as he kept eating hard shots; he also kept things at least close by landing some good left hooks. Both fighters were tiring by round eight, but Mora was still scoring most of the quality punches, repeatedly throwing right hand leads that had Vera befuddled.
Vera had a decent round nine, rattling Mora with a big right hand, and pinning him in the corner with a flurry in which some punches evaded Mora’s bob and weave defense. Yet Mora still managed to steal the round by connecting with a series of hard shots as the clock ran down. Round ten saw Mora hurt the tough Vera with a series of shots, snapping the Texan’s head back repeatedly. Mora then sat back and offered his version of the rope-a-dope before scoring with another hard right hand lead.
Mora, obviously feeling he now had the fight in the bag, went into a more defensive posture in the last two rounds, wanting to deny his opponent the chance for a game-changing punch. As the final round commenced, trainer Ronnie Shields told both his fighter and the TV audience that his man definitely needed a knockout to win. With a desperate Vera throwing wildly and missing, a happy Mora began a victory dance, his hands raised as the fight came to an end.
That happiness wouldn’t last for long, however.
Judge Wilfredo Esperon saw the bout as a draw, 114-114.
However, the other two judges had the fight as a blowout for Brian Vera, submitting the outrageous scores of 118-110 and 117-111, making the Texan the new NABO middleweight champion.
Boxing Insider had it 116-113 for Sergio Mora.
An abashed Vera (21-6-0, 12 KOs) said after the fight that he thought a draw was the proper result.
Mora (23-3-2, 7 KOs), meanwhile, was understandably apoplectic, pointing out the fact that Vera’s own trainer told the television audience that his fighter needed a knockout to win. A disgusted Mora called the scores the result of “boxing politics.”
Overall, this was just one more night in boxing when the judges spoiled what had been a highly enertaining fight with an inexplicably poor decision that even the winner didn’t agree with.