On a bitter cold January night at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, ESPN's Friday Night Fights featured a smoking hot main event, as rugged veteran middleweight Brian Vera (22-6, 13 KOs) upset former 154-pound world champion Sergiy Dzinziruk by round 10 TKO to retain his NABO middleweight belt.
Vera took control of the fight from the opening bell, pressuring Dzinziruk and forcing his way into range to deliver chopping overhand rights. Dzinziruk appeared genuinely rattled by his first taste of 160-pound power. He was knocked down twice and barely survived the round.
Dzinziruk recuperated impressively from his first round flirtation with disaster but continued to struggle throughout the early rounds of the fight. Showing practically no respect at all for the Ukrainian's ability to hurt him, Vera continued to wade forward, eating whatever punches he needed to while squaring up to unload his own artillery.
In the middle rounds Dzinziruk showed flashes of his world class talent and began to give Vera problems as he used very good lateral and backwards movement to evade Vera and score on him as he came forward.
But it was an exhausting strategy to maintain, and Vera stayed relentless, using his stocky frame to push Dzinziruk around the ring and further tire him.
Round eight in particular brought the central New York crowd to its feet. Early in the round Vera trapped Dzinziruk in the corner and unloaded with a barrage of significant scoring. Somehow the Ukrainian managed to fight his way out and even ended up opening a cut over Vera's left eye later in the round.
In the tenth Vera trapped his challenger in the corner once more. Again Dzinziruk struggled gamely to hold on but Vera managed to land several flush punches and finally Dzinziruk slumped to the canvas in the corner, seemingly from accumulated attrition as much as any one single punch. Dzinziruk was able to get back to his feet, but referee Benjy Esteves waved off action at 1:50 of the round.
Vera gave credit to his opponent in the post fight press conference:
I come to fight every time. I just need to stop getting hit so darn much. I tried to just be a dog and bully him, but he was tough. I thought I had him out o there early, but he hung in. Hes an experienced guy and really tough.
Vera wasn't just being modest in pointing out his defensive shortcomings, of course. Nobody will ever confuse him for the sort of pugilist who gets "sugar" attached to his name.
On the other hand, he has a down-to-earth demeanor and a take no prisoners style in the ring. Gritty journeyman like him are the fighting heart of the sport.
Expect to hear Vera mentioned often now in coming months as a potential opponent for WBA world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, the undefeated Kazakhstan native who has developed a reputation as a man nobody wants to fight.
The first question Vera was asked at the post fight press conference was about Golovkin, and Vera made it clear that he would welcome the challenge eagerly:
I'm not scared of anybody. I'll fight anybody. I'll fight Gennady Golovkin and I'll rough him up a little bit...I would love to have that fight.
I just watched Brian Vera have possibly the biggest night of his career, and it made for one of my most exciting live fight memories ever. He'll always be a special fighter to me for that reason alone.
But honestly: I don't see him beating GGG.
At the same time, people are not exactly lining up to fight Golovkin. Give Vera credit for having the confidence to call for that kind of challenge. I don't think anybody can doubt that he will bring every ounce of fight he can muster up into the ring with him.
Briggs Seekins is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. All events reported in this story were covered live.
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