On the March 29 episode of Friday Night Fights broadcast from the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, middleweight contender Brian Vera (23-6, 14 KOs) recorded his fourth straight victory by stopping Lithuanian Donatas Bondorovas (17-4-1, 6 KOs) on cuts after the seventh round. Vera came into the fight already ranked No. 1 by the WBO, so the victory should definitely put him in line for a shot at current champion Peter Quillin.
Another possible big fight for Vera is a showdown with the the wildly popular Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Vera, a rugged Mexican-American from Texas, has the potential to do very big numbers against Chavez fighting at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.
At the post-fight press conference, Vera said he'd welcome either fight but that:
The biggest fight I think would be the Chavez Jr fight. He comes to fight, I come to fight. I think they would do it in Texas, where I'm from, and it would draw a lot of people. It would be a fun fight for the fans.
Vera also noted that he had actually sparred with Chavez in the past: "It was the end of my camp and the beginning of his, so I feel like I did great against him because I was in great shape, but I don't want to take anything away from him because of it."
Vera's stoppage of Bondorovas was controversial. The Lithuanian entered the fight already sporting a scabbed-over abrasion on the bridge of his nose and his face was bloodied from early in the first round onward. At the start of the sixth, Vera opened another cut on the side of Bondorovas' left eye.
Following Round 7, referee Charlie Fitch questioned Bondorovas in his corner and determined his vision had become too impaired for him to safely continue. The stoppage was greeted by a loud chorus of boos and immediately set off a firestorm of criticism online.
Bondorovas' promoter Bobby Hitz was highly critical at the post-fight press conference, insisting that his fighter's limited familiarity with the English language had caused him to misunderstand Fitch's questions and answer incorrectly.
As somebody who writes about fighting, I am always concerned with fighter health and virtually never criticize an official's decision to end a fight early. But in this case, I feel the stoppage was ridiculous.
I was seated directly behind the ESPN broadcast team and heard Fitch explain to Joe Tessitore that he felt Bondorovas "wanted out of the fight." But despite the dramatic crimson mask he was wearing, Bondorovas was coming off what I would judge to be his best round in the fight. Nothing in his body language after the stoppage conveyed a fighter who wanted to quit.
Still, Hitz's contention at the press conference that his fighter "had the fight under control and was cruising to victory" is a dubious statement at best. While Bondorovas was outscoring Vera, his punches truly seemed to be having next to no effect on the Texan.
Hitz's bold statements were immediately met by derisive comments from Vera partisans at the back of the room, and the fighter and promoter briefly sparred verbally, though Hitz insisted, "We've got a lot of respect for you Brian. Now go win the title and give us our rematch."
Of course, Vera can in no way be viewed as a sure bet to win a title. He's an aggressive, press-forward fighter who generally allows himself to be hit all night long.
After his victory over Sergiy Dzinziruk at Turning Stone last January, Vera wryly noted, "I need to learn to stop getting hit so much." In the first couple of rounds against Bondorovas last night, he did show improved head movement and was making his opponent miss with regularity.
But he quickly abandoned the strategy against the light-hitting Lithuanian, almost gleefully eating shots as he kept wading forward into range. He may not have taken significant damage doing this, but he did lose rounds as a result.
Against a Chavez or Quillin, a take two (or three, or four) to give one strategy will likely get him knocked out. Vera was the first one to admit last night that "I can't fight like that" and still beat championship-caliber opponents.
There's no question, though, that after a rough stretch from 2008 to 2010 which saw him go 1-4, Vera has fought his way back into contention as a factor in the middleweight division. He has a durable chin and the kind of physical strength that allows him to muscle around inside like a linebacker.
While he is not an extremely accurate or powerful puncher, he unloads with the kind of volume that can take a toll over the course of rounds. While he might miss with the first and second shot he throws, you can bet that a third and fourth punch is coming right after the first two.
Moreover, he is the sort of fighter whom fans like to watch, a blue-collar guy who shows up ready to go to war every single time.
Briggs Seekins is a Featured Boxing Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him at #Briggsfighttalk on twitter.