Sammy Vasquez put on a show for his hometown fans in Pittsburgh, winning a near-shutout 10-round unanimous decision (99-91 twice, 100-90) over Emmanuel Lartey in the main event of ShoBox: The New Generation on Friday, Feb. 20 from CONSUL Energy Center.
Vasquez (18-0, 13 KOs) entered the bout seeking his 10th consecutive knockout against an opponent who hadn’t been knocked down before and had been in the ring with two U.S. Olympians. The military veteran wasn’t able to finish Lartey (17-3, 8 KOs, 1 NC), but that was just about the only thing that didn’t go his way in a thoroughly impressive performance in which he landed 50 percent of his power shots.
Vasquez started slow and was able to pick his shots in the early rounds, but he accelerated the tempo in the second half of the fight as Lartey appeared to slow down. The hometown favorite did his best work with Lartey against the ropes and landed at will in the middle rounds. Lartey seemed like he was ready to quit on his stool after the eighth, but he continued and Vasquez slowed his production in the final two rounds and cruised to the victory.
“I thought he was going down a few times but he hung in there,” Vasquez said. “The jab was going well, but I made a couple of mistakes because I started feeling comfortable. I knew he was hurt after the eighth and my corner told me to step off the gas a little bit and pick my punches more instead of just storming him.
“I thought he was going to quit a couple times on his stool. He’s a tough guy – no one could knock him out. I couldn’t either.”
Lartey dropped his third fight to a top prospect after decision losses to Errol Spence Jr. and Felix Diaz.
“Sammy is a tough fighter,” Lartey said. “He’s really strong. I did my best, but he was just too good.”
After the fight, ShoBox announcer Steve Farhood broke down Vasquez’s impressive game plan.
“It was a very controlled and intelligent performance by Vasquez, accelerating as the rounds progressed, dominating every round and controlling the action whether boxing, attacking or pinning Lartey against the ropes,” Farhood said. “He showed a lot and he deserves the reputation he has as being one of the top young American welterweights.”
Craig Baker knocked out Humberto Savigne in a stunning upset, finishing the heralded former Cuban amateur with a highlight-reel TKO at 1:58 of the second round.
Savigne (12-2, 9 KOs, 1 NC), who had a huge size advantage and was the heavily favored fighter, landed a series of right hands in the first and looked like he could make it a quick night against the undefeated-yet-untested Baker. But the Texan fought like an opponent who had nothing to lose against Savigne, an experienced veteran with over 400 amateur bouts under his belt.
Baker (16-0, 12 KOs) landed a few decent shots in the first and came out blazing in the second, throwing a high volume of punches with Savigne against the ropes. Fighting in a small ring, Savigne had nowhere to go and continually ate shots on a suspect chin before falling face forward to the canvas. Savigne got up, but he fell into the ropes and was clearly out on his feet, forcing the referee to halt the contest at 1:58.
“I hurt him in the first round and I could tell that his chin was weak, I could tell that I could finish him,” Baker said. “In the second, I just smelled blood and I knew I had to go to work, I had to finish him.
“Nobody gave me a chance going in, but I was the undefeated fighter and he wasn’t. I worked too hard to come here and lose. I just have to keep working. You haven’t seen the last of me – this is a life changing moment.”
The 36-year-old Savigne was clearly shocked after the fight.
“He was the better man tonight,” Savigne said. “I wasn’t expecting him to be as tough as he was. I made a huge mistake in taking him lightly. This is something that I’ll learn from. Now I’ll go back to the drawing board. I’ll go back to the gym – I’ll keep working hard and I’ll be back.
“In the first round, Baker hit me on the side of the ear and I lost equilibrium. I was completely dizzy. He hurt me with that shot. He was the better man tonight.”
Claudio Marrero won a dominating unanimous decision victory over Orlando Rizo in the opening bout of the telecast. Marrero (18-1, 13 KOs) controlled the bout from the outset, knocking Rizo (18-6, 11 KOs) down four times en route to a convincing victory scored 78-71, 78-70, 80-68.
Marrero was the more aggressive and effective fighter, landing 43 percent of power punches and 39 percent of his total punches.
“I was trying to set up the big shots so I could end the night,” Marrero said. “It got away from me at times, but it was a good preparation for taking that step for a shot at a world title.
“I’m not disappointed I didn’t knock him out. I underestimated his tenacity to get back up and stay in the fight and I need to work on my discipline so that doesn’t happen again. I feel that I’m ready for a shot at a title whenever I get an opportunity.”