Sergiy Dzinziruk wasn’t what we thought he was.
Upon coming to North America, the former top junior middleweight jumped up in weight and was no longer able to dominate and keep anyone at bay with a sharp jab.
The trend continued Friday night in Verona, N.Y., as fringe middleweight contender Bryan Vera slowly wore him down and stopped him in the 10th round of and ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event.
But we also found out that the stoic, methodical Ukrainian is one hell of a gutsy fellow.
Vera, a 31-year-old Austin, Texas, jumped all over Dzinziruk in the opening frame, dropping him with a body shot before the TV graphics could even dissolve. Soon after, “The Warrior” dropped Dzinziruk again with a quick left and an overhand right.
In the second round, the former junior middleweight titlist seemed to have his legs under him and was turning Vera occasionally, but still couldn’t react to pick any punches off. The fight fell into a pattern of Dzinziruk landing jabs, but Vera responding consistently with hard right hands. It seemed that at least once every round, Vera had Dzinziruk hurt.
Dzinziruk finally gained a measure of control in the sixth round, as Vera’s charging spurts became a little less frequent.
Just as Vera seemed to be tiring though, he unleashed in the eighth round, pinning Dzinziruk in the neutral corner and sending his head wobbling over the corner pad again and again. Somehow though, the southpaw pushed out a left hand and didn’t just get himself out of harm’s way, but opened Vera up with a barrage of jabs for the rest of the round.
It was perhaps the last stand in the “championship-level” portion of Dzinziruk’s career.
“The jab is quick, but it’s not heavy or anything like that. And yeah, he pushed me back a bit with a body shot,” said Vera of the exchange.
The violent scene from the eighth repeated itself in the 10th, and Dzinziruk slumped in the very same corner for good. Referee Tom Schreck waived it off.
For Vera, it was the biggest win of his career, and one that came at every bit as dire a moment as it was for his opponent. Though he was riding a two-fight win streak, his last appearance on HBO ended in defeat at the hands of Andy Lee.
“He was tough, because I thought I could get him out of there early, but he made it tough,” said Vera. “I still showed a lot of flaws, but this is only my fourth fight with Ronnie. He’s got me getting better and better.”
According to his manager David Watson, a possible bout with WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin hung in the balance.
“I wouldn’t back down from him, I think I could push him back,” said Vera of the matchup. “I’ll put an ass-whooping on him, too.”
In the broadcast opener, Jose Hernandez pulled a relative upset over Canadian lightweight prospect Tony Luis with a thrilling eighth round stoppage.
Hernandez was the third opponent scheduled for Luis on this night, only being officially announced a week and a half prior. Perhaps assuming his foe would be ill-prepared, Luis set a rapid tempo in the opening frame and wailed away at the body.
Unfortunately, the Fort Worth, Texas native would prove to be more than up to the task.
The two remained chest to chest trying to beat one another to the punch, until the fourth round when Luis won the left-hook race, buzzing Hernandez with a hard counter left hook upstairs as the Texan threw a longer left to the body.
In the fifth round, it appeared Hernandez might begin to wane, as his output dipped while Luis continued to pound away downstairs.
However, the turning point seemed to come in the sixth, when Hernandez snapped Luis’ head back with a straight right hand, a rarity only due to the proximity of the two combatants. By the next round, he decided he wouldn’t comply with the unwritten agreement that the two men would simply stand on top of one another, and again created distance and rocked Luis with another pair of rights.
The conclusion came not long after, in the late stages of the eighth round, Hernandez whipped a left hook and a pair of short right hands wobbled Luis, who corkscrewed to the mat. The brave Canuck rose to his feet, but the onslaught continued along the ropes until his corner threw in the towel at 2:47.
“He brought everything he could to the ring. I was just a little bigger, little stronger,” said Hernandez, who had dropped decisions to other prospects on the road in the past. “I didn’t let it go to the 10th round. I didn’t let it go to the judges.”
At the time of the stoppage, Hernandez was up 67-66 on two scorecards, while Luis was ahead by the same score on the other.