Wilfredo Vazquez Jr vs Rafael Rivera & Medzhid Bektemirov vs Alexander Brand
BY KID HERSH
HBO had boxing on the Latino channel from Kissimmee Florida, first up featuring Alexander Brand (24-1, 19ko's) vs Medzhid Bektemirov (16-0, 12ko's). "Medziah" got off to a good start by pressuring Brand hard, putting him out of his comfort zone with his strength and hard punches - dropping him in the very first round with a right hand when he trapped him on the ropes and then further following up on that success, nearly knocking him down in the second round when he caught him on the ropes again near the end of the round. Brand did better work in the second round when he was jabbing and working from the outside, stunting Medziah's work rate and making him miss when he lunged in with shots. This continued into the fourth round, with Medziah looking to load up on left hooks but aside from one landing early in the round hee was missing wildly for the most part as Brand worked the outside and was able to keep Medziah following him around the ring instead of cutting it off effectively. In the fifth round Medziah was still loading up on left hooks but was able to land them on Brand, who was keeping his hands very low in his loose and natural instincts style. Medziah was still getting outworked though and it was hard to pick a winner in this round. The sixth round was another hard one to score, with Medziah very inactive but landing some hard, powerful shots occasionally on Brand who was still keeping his hands far too low. Brand was still outworking his man though, staying very busy and finding the mark while mostly blunting anything Medziah was trying to get going - likely giving him the round on work rate over a couple of hard punches that he did not see coming despite his hands at his waist. Brands style is very awkwardand Medziah is having a real hard time figuring out the Columbian enigma in front of him. This isn't the first time someone has had trouble with the 38 year old - with Badou Jack getting only a SD victory over him three years ago (I see after perusing boxrec). Brand has a style that kind of looks like Sam Solimon to me - totally unorthodox and awkward but yet hard to hit and hard to mount an offense against despite the fact that he is squared up plenty of times in front of you as he switches between orthodox and southpaw but never commits to either one really. You never know where he is going to move next or end up with his herky jerky style as he forces you to wait on him, or at least draws his opponent into not wanting to swing at air and look foolish from missing by miles because he is all over the place at all times. The rounds going down the stretch were much the same, with Medziah unable to mount any sort of offense and reaching with his shots that were mostly unsuccessful. Brand would go on to win the SD with two cards reading 98-91 and the other judge somehow finding it for Medziah by a point at 95-94. Nonetheless the right man won the fight. Brand is not very fun to watch, like Sam Solimon (imo), but he offers a very awkward puzzle for guys to figure out - handing the Russian his first defeat in a fight that had him looking bad as he couldn't get anything off and could not cut the ring off despite his target having his hands at his waist for the majority of the fight.
Main event time with Rafael Rivera (20-0-2, 14ko's) vs Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (24-5-1, 19ko's). Rivera got off to a hot start for the fight, coming out very aggressive and throwing punches in bunches but also sitting down on his shots to inflict damage. He caught Vazquez on the opes and in the corner a couple times in the round, with Vazquez looking like he was just trying to weather the early onslaught. Rivera changed tactics in the second round, electing to try and box Vazquez, which wasn't working well as Vazquez was able to land his much better jab and control the outside - aside from occasional quick power shots from Rivera. Rivera then came out guns blazing again in the third round and the two fighters got into a heavy exchange that left Rivera on the canvas from a great left hook Vazquez landed off the ropes. Rivera got up looking ok but was clearly more cautious and his legs were not completely steady beneath him, as evidenced when he tried to sit down on power shots from the outside that were unbalanced. They went back to boxing for the next couple rounds, which favored Vazquez as he caught Rivera with shots from the outside that he did not see coming. Rivera is still full of energy but is not employing it effectively against the calm and waiting veteran. Rivera's shots look mean and flashy but they are glancing or missing mostly - clearly evidenced in the sixth round as the crowd cheered on his power shots with bad intentions behind them but I did not see many lan aside from a couple hooks late in the round that could have conceivably won it for him depending on how you score. Vazquez continued showing a great defense in the seventh round and continued being the ring general while giving Rivera a bit of a boxing lesson on footwork and boxing from the outside. Rivera had another late rally of punches when he managed to get Vazquez caught on the ropes but I don't see how that could win him the round as it's too little too late in the final 15 seconds. Vazquez showed his mastery over the younger man early in the eighth as well, pressing him backwards for a change after early success in picking him off from the outside again. Rivera would again look to rally late in the round with heavy pressure but this time was met with a great right hand that he walked into, backing him up momentarily a it no doubt stunned him. The ninth round was fought at Vazquez's pace and distance for the entirety - no late surge from Rivera - and the twelfth was much of the same until the final minute where Rivera exploded with everything he had and looked like he caught Vazquez at one point with a hook that sent the veteran reeling backwards. Vazquez closed out just fine though - not appearing to be hurt past momentarily. Rivera would surprisingly go on to win the SD by scores of 95-94 and 96-93 in his favor and the final judge having it 98-91 for Vazquez. I had it 97-92 for Vazquez so I think he got the poor end of the SD here - possibly evidenced by the boos reigning in when the final decision was announced despite the crowd being in Rivera's favor throughout. I gave Rivera the 1st, 6th,, and final round but he also had a knockdown scored against him so I just don't see him taking it because Vazquez showed great ring generalship and defense against the energetic but green Rivera.