After a career built on springing upsets as a durable underdog, Brian Vera found himself in an unusual position as the featured pugilist in the main event of a nationally televised bout.
Despite the role reversal, Vera (23-6, 14 knockouts), of Austin, Texas, performed up to par, scoring a technical knockout of Lithuania-born Donatas Bondorovas (17-4-1, 6 KOs) at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, N.Y.
The bout headlined this week’s installment of Friday Night Fights, which was televised by the primary ESPN channel instead of the usual ESPN2.
Referee Charlie Fitch stopped the bout due to cuts on Bondorovas’ left eye following the seventh round, but the conclusion wasn’t without controversy.
Between rounds, Fitch approached the Bondorovas corner to check on the cuts. He asked Bondorovas, who isn’t fluent in English, whether he could see. Fitch interpreted Bondorovas’ answer to be “I can’t,” then informed the corner that the fight would be stopped by technical knockout.
Bondorovas and his irate promoter Bobby Hitz protested to the referee that his answer was misunderstood as Hitz asked Fitch, “Do you speak Lithuanian?”
“He told me he couldn’t see. He wanted out of the fight. Technical knockout,” responded Fitch.
“I can, not ‘I can’t,'” responded Bondorovas in a thick accent which could make distinguishing the contrasting answers difficult at first listen.
The anticlimactic conclusion halted what, to that point, had been an exciting middleweight bout between two hungry fighters who couldn’t afford a setback at this point in their careers.
Vera, 31, who is as hot as he’s ever been in his career following consecutive upsets over Sergio Mora and Sergei Dzinziruk, was not as consistent with his pressure as he had been the Dzinziruk fight, which took place just two months earlier at the same venue. Still, he was able to open a cut on the bridge of Bondorovas’ nose.
The 33-year-old Bondorovas, who now lives in Chicago, Ill. and trains with former Andrew Golota-coach Sam Colonna, made his presence felt in round two, as his right crosses landed consistently over Vera’s lazy jabs.
Vera, who sustained a cut around his own left eye in round four, managed to hurt Bondorovas with right hands of his own, but failed to press the advantage. Bondorovas was cut above his own left eye in the sixth.
In the co-featured bout, Cuban-native Umberto Savigne handed Brazilian puncher Jackson Junior his first career loss, stopping Junior in the fourth round of their light heavyweight bout.
Savigne (11-1, 8 KOs), who now lives in Miami, Fla., dropped Junior (14-1, 12 KOs) once in the second and three times in the fourth – all on right hands – before referee Mark Nelson stopped the fight at the 2:17 point.
Savigne, 34, has now won nine straight since his lone defeat, a second round knockout against upset specialist Harvey Jolly in 2010. Outside of that, Savigne has scored knockouts over former world title challengers Epifanio Mendoza and Richard Hall.
Junior, 27, was fighting for just the second time in America, having not previously faced any notable opponents.