By Graham Houston
Two exciting, unbeaten young fighters meet for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title in the main event on Saturday’s Double Assault PPV show when Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., with a Puerto Rican crowd behind him and his ex-champ father in his corner, faces his stiffest test against Filipino Marvin Sonsona. The fight will be preceded by the Rodel Mayol-Omar Nino Romero championship bout in Mexico, but the Vazquez-Sonsona bout is the one that I am awaiting with the greater sense of anticipation.
Vazquez, 25, is the favourite. He has the home-turf advantage, and Sonsona is moving up two weight divisions, from junior bantam. Sonsona was struggling to keep his weight down to 115 pounds, though, and he failed to make the junior bantam limit for a title defence against Alejandro Hernandez in November. This was, I think, a case of the 19-year-old Sonsona simply filling out naturally with maturity. He weighed 121.4 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in and I expect him to be strong at the weight.
The fight is intriguing. Vazquez had no amateur experience but he has developed into a classy boxer-puncher, with 14 KOs in his 17 wins (one draw).
Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. has done a wonderful job training his son. The younger Vazquez throws his punches with a power and precision reminiscent of his father, and he has been looking very impressive with a series of dominant wins over Mexican veterans. He stopped former world title challengers Cecilio Santos and Genaro Garcia in his last two fights and looked outstanding. Vazquez was, however, meeting faded fighters who had been in the wars. Sonsona is a young, fresh, fast, ambitious fighter, and he is a southpaw.
Vazquez looks on paper to be the more powerful puncher because he would seem to be the bigger man, but Sonsona scored some spectacular wins in the Philippines and twice dropped the very tough Jose “Carita” Lopez in their title fight at 115 pounds. Sonsona struggled in his last fight, when he faded late against Alejandro Hernandez, but I think he probably drained himself trying to get down to 115 pounds — he came in two and a half pounds over the limit and lost his WBO title on the scales.
There are two big questions concerning Sonsona on Saturday: Will he carry his punching power up two weight classes and will he be able to stand up to the heavy shots of a boxer who has fought at junior lightweight? We will not know the answer until the bout is in progress.
Vazquez seems to have great natural talent but he hasn’t yet had to prevail in a long, tough fight. I understand that he hurt his right hand in a drawn bout in Mexico, when the willing Jorge Cardenas kept on top of him for much of the eight rounds. I made Vazquez the winner but he didn’t look comfortable under pressure. That fight was more than two years ago, but it did put a little doubt in my mind. Is Vazquez one of those good “on top” fighters who will falter in the fire of a fierce contest?
Sonsona had a good amateur background in the Philippines and I view him as an athletic, gifted boxer who is tougher than his boyish looks suggest. He showed ring intelligence in his bout with Jose Lopez, going to a hit-and-move style in the later rounds when the durable veteran mounted a rally.
I think that Sonsona’s versatility will help him on Saturday. He can box and he can bang. Also, he has been in two gruelling 12-round bouts in which he had to overcome adversity. Vazquez has not been in fights of this nature — unless you count the drawn eight-rounder in Mexico. Over the last couple of years, Vazquez has been winning all the way — he hasn’t had to dig down and fight his way through.
Vazquez and Sonsona are outstanding young fighters but I sense there is something a bit special about the Filipino southpaw. I think he is a bit quicker than Vazquez, both on his feet and with his fists. I think Sonsona can get in first and hardest when the boxers begin to fire their best punches.
This should be an exciting and dramatic fight and I can’t see it going the distance. I’m going to go for Sonsona to pull off the upset by stopping Vazquez in nine rounds.