Mexican out to spoil Farenas’ shot at title

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A battle-scarred Mexican journeyman who has fought brothers Manny and Bobby Pacquiao is in town to spoil IBF No. 4 superfeatherweight Michael Farenas’ bid for a world title shot.

Hector Velazquez, 39, is a grizzled veteran of 79 fights and in the twilight of a 20-year career, wants a final stab at glory. He’ll provide an acid test for Farenas when they clash for the vacant WBC Asia Council Continental 130-pound championship in a 12-rounder at the San Juan Arena tonight.

Velazquez, countryman Alem Robles and two trainers flew in from Mexico last Friday to set up camp here a week before promoter Gerry Peñalosa’s blockbuster card unravels. Robles takes on unbeaten Dave Peñalosa in the undercard.

“The Mexicans insisted to come early to acclimatize,” said Peñalosa. “They didn’t come to lose. They’re tough guys. I was at ringside in Los Angeles when Velazquez fought Manny and he gave a good account of himself in the early rounds. I remember Manny was coming off a loss to (Erik) Morales. Velazquez put up a good fight in the first few rounds then Manny’s speed took over. Manny won by knockout in the sixth. I told Mike not to take Velazquez lightly. He’s a very experienced fighter who has fought many big names. Velazquez will be dangerous in the early rounds. He’s been training at the gym in Starmall since arriving and the word is he’s in good form.”

In yesterday’s weigh-in at the Lancaster Hotel, both Farenas and Velazquez tipped the scales at the superfeatherweight limit of 130 pounds. Velazquez, however, took two hours to shed off five pounds to make the cut. Robles and Peñalosa checked in at 124 each.

Velazquez is one of only two fighters ever to face the Pacquiao brothers. The other is Thai Fahprakorb Rakkiat-gym. Velazquez was stopped by Manny in September 2005. The Mexican beat Bobby by disqualification in the 11th round in Las Vegas in November 2006. Bobby dropped Velazquez in the third round with an uppercut but couldn’t finish off the durable veteran. The younger Pacquiao was eventually disqualified for repeated low blows even as he led in two of the three judges scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

Velazquez has been in the ring with world champions like Venezuela’s Edwin Valero, Kazakhstan’s Vitali Tajbert, Mexico’s Raul Perez and Israel Vazquez and Brooklyn’s Kevin Kelley. His most impressive wins were at the expense of victims like Colombia’s Ever Beleno, Ukraine’s Yurij Voronin, Jesse Magana, Trinidad Mendoza and Marcos Licona.

Farenas, 29, won’t find it easy to penetrate Velazquez’ defense. He’s 5-4 1/2 compared to Velazquez who’s 5-7 with a 67-inch wingspan. Unless the Sorsogon slugger is able to crowd Velazquez and force a toe-to-toe brawl, it could be a long exasperating night for the Filipino. Velazquez will no doubt use his extensive reach to keep away from Farenas.

Peñalosa said he has big plans for Farenas but everything is on hold until he proves himself against Velazquez. “Mike is hungry,” said Peñalosa. “If Velazquez is dangerous in the early rounds, Mike is dangerous in the late rounds. We respect Velazquez a lot and that’s why Mike isn’t taking chances.”

Peñalosa said he’s in contact with Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman regarding Farenas’ future. A fight against WBO superfeatherweight champion Mikey Garcia is an option. Or Farenas could challenge the winner of the Bryan Vasquez-Jose Felix bout for the interim WBA superfeatherweight title in the undercard of the Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley mainer in Las Vegas on April 12.

Farenas isn’t ranked by the WBC, WBA or WBO. But he’s rated No. 4 by the IBF behind No. 1 Rances Barthelemy of Cuba and No. 3 Fernando Saucedo of Argentina. The No. 2 slot is vacant. The IBF superfeatherweight champion is the Dominican Republic’s Argenis Mendez who is promoted by Mike Tyson. Last January, Mendez was knocked out by Barthelemy but the result was ruled a no-contest when it was confirmed that the Cuban landed the finishing blow after the second round bell. A rematch is in order after which Farenas could challenge the winner.

In July 2012, Farenas battled WBA titlist Takashi Uchiyama in Saitama to a third round technical draw. That was Farenas’ first and only attempt to win a world crown. The unbeaten Uchiyama is another target for a rematch. Uchiyama’s countryman Takashi Miura is the WBC champion so he could be an option, too. It may be easier to arrange a world title fight for Farenas against a Japanese in Japan than Garcia or Mendez. The problem is Farenas must break into the WBA and WBC ratings to become a legitimate challenger. A convincing win over Velazquez could pave the way.

Farenas, who once floored Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa en route to losing a decision in Las Vegas two years ago, is unbeaten in 11 of his last 12 outings dating back to 2010. His last three wins were all by knockout and ran a total of only five rounds. He’s been a pro since 2004 and Peñalosa said the time is right for Farenas to ascend the throne, whichever version is available.

“What Manny did to Velazquez, Mike will try to do,” said Peñalosa. “Manny and Mike are both southpaws so we’ll follow what Manny did to knock out Velazquez. Mike is not as fast as Manny but he has power and that’s what we hope will prove to be the difference.”



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