By Eric Duran
Sammy “The Who Can Mexican” Vasquez will look to keep his perfect record intact as he takes on tough as nails Ghanian, Emmanuel Lartey, tonight on Showtime: The New Generation.
Vasquez is 17-0 with 13 knockouts. He has stopped his last 8 opponents in a row. Lartey is 16-2-1 with 7 knockouts, having lost to elite prospects Errol Spence Jr. and Felix Diaz. Lartey has never been stopped in his pro career. Vasquez aims to change that on Friday night as he takes on Lartey from the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
BoxingInsider.com was able to speak with Sammy in the last week of his preparation.
“I was going to attend the Alvarado-Rios weigh in and get on stage, stating the loser could fight me next and the winner could fight me after. I didn’t though; it’s just not the person I am,” says the modest Vasquez.
Vasquez is a humble young man from rough beginnings, growing up in Monssean, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. “I was bullied as a youth. As an outlet for my frustrations, I joined boxing.”
For years, boxing kept Vasquez away from the streets and the issues he was dealing with in his home life. “I remember being 13 and my mom up leaving the family, moving to Florida. At the time my sister was only six. My father would remarry and divorce again,” he remembers.
Vasquez says that this familial instability had a prolonged effect on him. “I had a whole different outlook on life, on women, on relationships.”
Vasquez stayed committed to boxing to deal with the frustrations until a serious injury at age 16 almost derailed his career, “I hurt my shoulder pretty bad, doctors said I would never play competitive sports again.” Luckily for Vasquez, however, he found a doctor with a master plan: “The doc put a few pins in and it hasn’t affected me since.”
Stepping into the ring is easy for Vasquez, in fact, it’s fun and a breath of fresh air considering he’s competed on an actual battlefield.
Vasquez joined the military in 2003, completing two tours in Iraq, from 2005-2006 and from 2008-2009. The squared circle only has one similarity when it comes to war: preparation, that’s it. As much as fighters say its life or death when they step into the ring, realistically, it’s far from it.
“It’s a blessing to fight, win or lose, you go home. In war, you never know if it’s going to be your last day,” Vasquez muses.
Over the last few years, Vasquez has earned the respect and admiration amongst fans across the nation with highlight reel knockouts, leaving opponents, who were considered equal in terms of skill, flat on the mat.
After returning from his second tour of the Iraq in 2009, Vasquez returned to boxing. He decided to stay in Colorado and train with Charles Leverette and the World Class Athletic Program.
At the 2009 National Pal tournament, Vasquez would take home the bronze medal in the 165lb division. In 2012, he fell short of making the Olympic team. Shortly after, Vasquez made his professional debut, fighting on Rod Salka and Sammy Vasquez Sr. promoted cards.
“My dad is a hustler, he once sold $75,000 worth of tickets for one of my fights,” says the fighter.
In 2014, Vasquez was signed to Iron Mike Productions, a start-up company with Mike Tyson as the face of the organization.
Unfortunately, it was a short marriage, as Tyson’s company folded after only a year in business, but Vasquez holds no grudges.
“Mike was a great mentor. He was always full of advice and I’m grateful for the opportunity he gave me,” he says.
With manager Gary Jonas, the brains behind Iron Mike Productions, Vasquez wasn’t a free agent for long. After only a month on the market, Jonas called with good news: Vasquez was signed by the elusive former music business mogul Al Haymon.
“He’s a mysterious man, haven’t spoken to or met him,” Vasquez says of Haymon.
“All I can say is that he is a man of his word.”
With father, Sammy Sr., Leverette, Jonas, and Haymon behind him, Vasquez is expecting to have a breakout year in 2015.
“Barring an injury, I hope to be a world contender by the end of the year. I see guys like Thurman, Porter and Spence all getting their shots, I want that too. I want to be able to step inside the ring and look across the ring at fighters like these men and know I made it.”
With the team assembled, Vasquez points to its most important member: “My wife, DelRae, she’s the backbone of the family. She keeps me grounded and focused.” So when Vasquez prepares for another fight, he does so surrounded by family and friends, making his training camp enjoyable and pleasant.
“Coach Leverette makes the gym a welcoming and comfortable place to be. Our relationship and bond only makes my preparation easier.” This is why Vasquez chose Colorado as his new home, as “back home, everyone knows you and everyone wants something,” stated Vasquez.
“[Here] I have my three daughters and my wife, that’s all I need.”
On February 20, Vasquez steps back into his sanctuary to face Emmanuel Lartey, the tough fighter from Ghana, who is “built like a pitbull, good fighter,” says Vasquez. “I want to stop him, something Spence or Diaz, former Olympians, couldn’t do.”
Sammy Vasquez Jr vs. Emmanuel Lartey is the main event of a scheduled triple-header live on Showtime: The New Generation, tonight at 10PM ET. The telecast also includes fast rising Light Heavyweight Umberto Savigne and former IBF Super Featherweight champion, Argenis Mendez.