Javier Fortuna made a successful first defense of his WBA world super featherweight title on Tuesday, knocking down challenger Carlos Velasquez in the second round en route to a 10th-round TKO victory at the Palms Casino's Pearl Concert Theater in Las Vegas.
This was Fortuna's seventh consecutive victory after fighting Luis Franco to a 10-round draw in August 2013, the only minor blemish on his ledger in an otherwise perfect career. Fortuna (29-0-1, 21 KOs) earned his WBA belt with a unanimous-decision victory over Bryan Vasquez in May.
The Dominican boxer wasn't quite as impressive as he was in his last bout. Boxer Sergio Mora offered his take on Fortuna:
Sergio Mora @TheLatinSnake_
Fortuna reminds me of Sam Soliman: Hard to watch & hard to beat.2015-9-30 02:57:12
SaturdayNightBoxing.com's Adam Abramowitz felt Vasquez could beat the version of Fortuna seen on Tuesday:
adam abramowitz @snboxing
This is the Fortuna I expected in the Vasquez fight. Vasquez could have beaten this guy.2015-9-30 02:30:33
The win over Velasquez (19-2-0, 12 KOs) marks Fortuna's first successful title defense. He was forced to vacate his title WBA world featherweight title after failing to make weight for his first defense against Miguel Zamudio, a bout he won by first-round knockout.
Fortuna looked stiff and unsure of himself in a first round that also saw him suffer a small cut on the bridge of his nose.
He quickly remedied the situation in the second round. Both boxers were aggressive with some good punch-counterpunch exchanges between grappling and rabbit punching. After ducking a left hook, Fortuna dropped Velasquez with a counter right behind the ear.
Abramowitz felt the knockdown was illegal:
adam abramowitz @snboxing
Two illegal punches by Fortuna led to the knockdown. Not shocking that Mora missed it.2015-9-30 02:32:54
PBC had a top-down view of the knockdown:
.@AbejonFortuna brought the pain early and scored this powerful knockdown in round two. #PBConFS1 http://t.co/6RGIBUdBuP2015-9-30 02:38:05
Velasquez bounced up quickly but struggled to fend off an increasingly aggressive Fortuna. Blood started trickling from the Puerto Rican's nose and caked on his upper lip by the third round. However, it appeared it was more the result of head clashes than Fortuna's actual punches.
Prior to this bout, Fortuna made it a point to focus on refining his punch technique.
“I show up to camp in great shape. I normally don't spar much in training, but for this camp I've already got a lot of rounds in,” he said, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael. “I've been sparring a lot to work on shortening up my punches and throwing them straighter.”
When Fortuna was fighting from the outside, many of his power punches came in wide and looping. He looked better at close range, where his speed and volume could take over.
Boxing journalist Andreas Hale compared Fortuna's style to that of Yuriorkis Gamboa:
Andreas Hale @AndreasHale
Javier Fortuna reminds me of Yuriorkis Gamboa with his awkwardness. It's working though as he's smashing Velasquez.2015-9-30 02:34:13
The fight slowed after the fifth round. Perhaps sensing he had built up a sizable advantage, Fortuna spent more time circling the ring and darting in and out of Velasquez's range. Velasquez was clearly bothered by the blood coming into his mouth. He struggled with accuracy and never established a jab against the southpaw.
Even at a slower work rate, Fortuna still got in some good shots, such as this uppercut, per PBC:
.@AbejonFortuna dishes out a feisty uppercut. #PBConFS1 http://t.co/bMDrsAarHD2015-9-30 02:57:56
Velasquez was clearly drained by the ninth round, and Fortuna pounced. He forced his overmatched opponent into the ropes and unloaded with knockout intent. It was a wild but unrefined approach from Fortuna, who had never earned a stoppage win after the eighth round.
After the 25-year-old's punishing string of blows to start the 10th, the referee finally stepped in and put Velasquez out of his misery.
Although the fight was Velasquez's first loss since a knockout at the hands of Rico Ramos in September 2013, he hardly looked the part of a championship contender. Indeed, the four guys he defeated after Ramos to earn this scrap were anonymous, unheralded card-fillers.
As for Fortuna, his southpaw stance, speed and aggression can be difficult to handle at times. His punch technique could still use some sharpening, and he disappointed by not jumping on a visibly hurt Velasquez earlier in the bout. A rematch against Vasquez would be a fine test to prove his championship worthiness, as would a scrap with the feisty Gamboa.