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Q&A: Jayson Velez

02
Jun
The only blemish on the pro record of  Jayson Velez (right) is a 12-round draw against then-IBF featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich (left) in November 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

The only blemish on the pro record of Jayson Velez (right) is a 12-round draw against then-IBF featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich (left) in November 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

There are a number of possible reasons for a fighter to fail in his attempt to reach the top.

In the case of unbeaten featherweight contender Jayson Velez, lack of confidence will never be one.

Velez (22-0-1, 16 KO), a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, fighting under Miguel Cotto’s promotional banner, will be facing Mexico’s Daniel “Hurricane” Ramirez (11-1, 5 KO) in his first gig as a headliner in Thursday’s edition of LA Fight Club. THE RING’s No. 10-rated featherweight is confident that the lone blemish in his record (a draw against then-IBF featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich in a title challenge last November) will be all but removed from the fans’ memories after what he envisions as a mere stay-busy fight ahead of the biggest challenges in his career.

Velez’s 10-round bout against Ramirez at the Belasco Theater, which will air live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes, should provide a few clues about his future in a talent-loaded division that Velez plans to take by storm after this next assignment. RingTV.com caught up with Velez during the last leg of his training camp, and this is what he had to share with us:



How are you getting ready for this fight? What is each member of your talented team bringing into this camp for you?

I’ve been working hard, but simply we had to make some adjustments. I’ve been training since January. I was asked to fight only 22 days ago, and I just had to do some adjustments in my training. We were close to the weight but we had to work to get down to the weight. And also in the sparring, because we had to adjust it to the style of my opponent. My team always supports me and they give the best of themselves.

This is your first time as a headliner. How does it feel?

I am very pleased. I am taking it step by step in my career. I started climbing up in card lineups very early in my career, in each card that I fought here in Puerto Rico. I became a co-headliner very early, and now I am headlining my first card. Obviously this is a big step in my career, this is something I worked hard to achieve, something I expected for a while, and I am happy for this opportunity. I am ready to give a great show and to continue being considered for bigger and better cards.

You’ll be fighting away from Puerto Rico on the week of the Puerto Rican Day parade, and in the same week in which Miguel Cotto fights. Do you feel the extra pressure of having to notch a big victory in this special week of celebration?

I always fight to give my best and to make fans happy. I don’t feel any pressure in that sense, I simply do my job. This week is special, but Puerto Rico has always had great fighters and Miguel Cotto is the best right now, but I go in trying to do my job and feeling no pressure at all. I do want to give a great show as always, and I am ready for an explosive victory.

You’re entering a part of your career where you need to both win AND look impressive. What does that added pressure bring to you in training and during the fight?

That’s true, I have to win convincingly in order to demonstrate I belong at this level. All eyes will be on me at this time, and I don’t want to let my team down. I don’t put pressure on myself but I do demand more of myself during training camp. Any boxer will tell you that you win fights in the gym, and I simply work harder in the gym to win in the ring. We correct the mistakes that need to be corrected, and on fight night we just go to work. I understand that people will be expecting to see the best of me in this fight, and I won’t let them down.

Puerto Rico has produced lots of great fighters with different styles. Who do you compare yourself with, in that regard?

I truly don’t like to compare myself with any fighter, Puerto Rican or otherwise. I want to open my own path. Each fighter has his own style, each fighter contributes something to the sport, and I cannot compare myself with anyone because they’ve all been great. Ivan Calderon was a great technician, Tito Trinidad was a terrific puncher, Miguel Cotto is a complete fighter because he can box and punch. I am a complete fighter as well, not as complete as Miguel Cotto, although he has his style and I have mine. He has his own career and is an all-time great already, and I am starting out. I think I can both box and brawl, but I like brawling a little bit more. If I had to define myself as a fighter, I’d say I am a brawler-puncher, an action fighter.

What are you working on right now in terms of style? What do you need to improve as you move in to the next level?

I believe I have a great jab, but I could have a much better one, obviously. We’re working on improving that. There are also a few flaws on my defense that I am trying to improve. I am working more on defense and leg work. And just as you said, obviously at this level you fight with better opponents every day and you have to improve every day, and there is always something to improve. And right now, it’s defense and jab.

How do you see the division right now, and how soon do you see yourself getting into the big picture?

Right now I am definitely feeling that I am among the top 10 in my division. I have to win this fight and I have to look good doing it. I don’t have any pressure but I definitely feel I have to do it. If I set my mind to it, I will do it. And after that, I definitely see myself getting into the big picture in this division. I understand that, at one point or another, the best fighters in my division will have to face me, and I will defeat them to become the best. That’s my goal, and that’s what I am working on, I know I will achieve that.

The featherweight division is quite crowded at the very top. Who do you see yourself fighting against in the list of talented featherweight champions like Nicholas Walters, Jesus Cuellar, Gary Russell Jr., Vasyl Lomachenko, and others?

They are all great fighters, and they are spectacular. I’ve had ups and downs in my career, and I haven’t had the chance to demonstrate all that I can be. I believe that in the Gradovich fight I demonstrated that I can compete at that level, but I need the opportunity to demonstrate that I can stay at that level and win at that level, and I truly see myself in tough fights against all of them, but winning all the time. Each one has their flaws, and I believe my intelligence is key in this sport. We all train hard, we all have ambition and we all have talent, but I believe I train harder, I am more ambitious and more talented than all of them, and I will have my chance to demonstrate that. At the right time I will have to face Walters, Lomachenko, Russell, Mares, Santa Cruz and all of them, and I assure them without any pressure or without trying to disrespect them that Jayson Velez will beat each and every one of them.

How do you imagine the fight on Thursday? What’s your prediction?

It’s a very difficult fight. (Ramirez) is a fighter that comes to fight and he’ll be looking for a war. He can hit hard to the body, so we’ll have to be careful. I understand the fight will be very competitive for four or five rounds, but after the sixth I believe I will start dominating and by the eighth or ninth round I should be stopping Ramirez, but I am ready to go the distance as well. I respect the fighter and I believe he will do his job, we could easily go the distance, but I believe that I should be winning by stoppage around the 8th round.

 

Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing

 

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