Saturday, April 01, 2023  |


Fleischer, Vargas and Younan shine on Cotto-Geale undercard

Fighters Network

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Dustin Fleischer knows where the fighter comes from. It stirs within. From the blood that courses through his veins. From the genetic foundation of a man who defied the marching boots of the Nazis sweeping through Poland, who as a teenager saw his parents killed right in front of him. From a man who escaped concentration camps and survived The Holocaust.

From Bernard Fleischer, a fighter whose whole family was wiped out by the Germans during World War II, except for his sister.

It’s the memory of his grandfather’s plight that Dustin carries with him into the ring. It’s why his 66-second, first-round blowout of Kareem Millner on the Miguel Cotto-Daniel Geale undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn may have meant a little more to him than any of the winners on Saturday night.

The 25-year-old welterweight from Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, drove his modest record to 2-0, with 2 knockouts, while Millner fell to 1-2 (1 KO). At such an advanced age, Dustin knows he’s on a fast timetable. What drives him is the goal of one day becoming the first world champion related to a Holocaust survivor.

“My grandfather came here and started on his own, and he never would say anything to me about what he went through. My father would tell me,” Dustin said. “My grandfather would keep escaping and joining the Polish resistance. He was shot three times. He and his friends waited for the Germans to fall asleep, and that’s when they’d escape and steal their guns. He was a fighter in the truest sense of the word. That’s where I get it from. My grandfather would always speak to me about the importance of family. What my grandfather went through … it makes me believe that I could go through anyone in the ring. I can get a belt one day and I’ll do it in his memory.”

The undercard was very thin. The main co-feature was an eight-round featherweight battle between Fernando Vargas (29-9-3, 20 KOs) and former WBO junior featherweight world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (24-5-1, 19 KOs), which Vargas easily won by scores of 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75.

Vargas was coming off a loss to 8-4-2 Andres Tapia and Vazquez Jr. was 3-3 over his last six.

“The guy was a past world champion and I was coming off a loss, so this was big for me,” Vargas said. “I’m ready for a world title, I think. I’m so happy I don’t know what to think. I’ll fight anybody. I think my head movement is better than it was before. I’m in a new gym, the same one where Erik Morales trains. But it was important my defense was better, better than I used to do before.”

There was a lot of young talent sprinkled on the Cotto-Geale undercard. One fighter that could bear watching is 19-year-old Junior Younan (7-0, 6 KOs), who remained undefeated after pummeling late replacement Mike Sawyer (6-4, 4 KOs) in a fight at light heavyweight. Younan, a natural super middleweight, stopped the rough Sawyer at 2:29 of the second, displaying good hand speed and a penchant for loading up on a steady stream of left hooks.

“I’m going back down to 168,” said Younan, who had a distinguished amateur career. “I wanted to take my time and make sure I landed everything correctly. I didn’t want to take that chance and get caught with something stupid. I’m ready to make the next step. I’m from Brooklyn. This was a big deal to me fighting for the first time at Barclays Center. I wanted to get some work in, because I was out nine months due to promotional issues. Once I got that straightened out, I wanted to get some rounds in. This is the hardest I worked for any fight and I felt good.”

Featherweight Angel Luna (11-1-1, 6 KOs) pulled off a mild surprise by toppling the previously undefeated Jose Lopez (15-1-1, 11 KOs). The victory may have meant far more to Luna than the setback did to Lopez. Entering the fight, Luna was 1-1-1, coming off a lopsided, unanimous defeat to Tevin Farmer, who had four losses on his record.

“My last fight I lost my undefeated status and that really motivated me to come out this time in a bigger fight and take it to this guy; I really wanted to avenge that loss,” Luna said. “I spoke to my trainer and we knew there was a risk involved. I was conscious who I was up against and aware that I was the opponent. I really needed to pull this victory. I listened to my corner more about getting inside and throwing more combinations. It’s something I worked on in camp and something I’m really glad that I executed tonight.”

In the first fight of the night, junior featherweight Shawn Simpson marked his pro debut with a fourth-round TKO at 2:05 over Damon Simon (0-2).

“I felt like it was time to move on from the amateurs and I wasn’t hungry anymore for the Olympics, so I moved on to become a pro,” said Simpson, 21. “He gave me a little bit of a run. He gave me some trouble with his movement, but once I was able to catch up to him, I was able to hurt him. This was a nice start for me. I didn’t think he would move as much, because I’m usually the one who uses movement. It was different. I had to cut him off and get to him and I did in the fourth round. I think I’m going to get better every round I fight. I want to get back into the ring as soon as possible.”