In what was probably the best main event on Fox Sports 1 since the “PBC” series took over at the beginning of the month, Javier Fortuna made the first successful defense of his WBA junior lightweight title by stopping Carlos Ivan Velasquez in the 10th round at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
Fortuna looked a bit sluggish to start things off and he was finding it difficult to catch a workable rhythm. His athleticism, which is one of his strongest attributes, was hindered by a seemingly awkward progression through the first round. He was able to knock Velasquez down in the 2nd round, but it was not really achieved by way of adjustment or his proprietary skillset falling into place.
Rather, the two fighters were becoming more aggressive by comparison to the 1st round and the exchanges started to get sloppy, leaving Velasquez a bit more open as the round continued. Fortuna’s athleticism played a part in the moments leading up to the knockdown, but there were many momentum killing aspects, mostly dirty tactics, that prevented the exchanges from turning the fight into an action filled event. The two right hands from the southpaw Fortuna came in concession, and they also looked a little off the mark and on the back of Velazquez’s head, but it was borderline enough to credit the knockdown.
Velasquez made it to his feet and the fight would continue. Fortuna made a semi-decent effort to stop his opponent right then and there by increasing his aggressiveness. Velasquez suffered a cut in the 3rd round and had a hard time defending himself, let alone getting anything going for himself on the offensive side of the fight.
It is hard to criticize a fighter that gets the win and stops a very tough opponent, but it was a very messy performance from Fortuna. He was in shape, he was clearly the better physical specimen, which we knew would be the case, and yet, Fortuna was not nearly as sharp as we’ve seen him in the past. His punches were not crisp nor were they on an effective trajectory most of the time. They were coming in from wide angles and he rarely corrected the pathway for his punches, allowing his physical prowess to compensate for the lack of point-to-point contact.
Fortuna was better from the inside and lacked commitment on the outside. Still, he can be absolutely brilliant from the outside as he displayed a number of times throughout the course of this fight, including a sensational long-range uppercut that he landed with accuracy on the jawline of Velasquez.
In the post-fight interview, Fortuna said “I was just waiting to counter punch Velasquez. The rhythm of the fight was important. I was in control of the fight because I could control the rhythm.”
This is important because Fortuna acknowledges exactly what makes him a dull sometimes, but instead of making excuses he is legitimately on another wave link in terms of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Perhaps I’m defining his words by much more than just this one fight, but his further acknowledgment of this fight as it relates to his more consistent issues is an indicator of his own awareness.
“I’ve had this style ever since I was an amateur. I’ve learned more about how to be aggressive and I’ve always tried to press the action throughout my career.”
He knows how to turn it up, but he isn’t always aware of when to turn it up. For example, I’ll use the rounds leading up to the stoppage to prove my point. There was a noticeable drop off in Velasquez from round 8 to 9 and yet Fortuna didn’t get the stoppage until round 10. There were plenty of opportunities to test his opponent’s durability prior to the 10th, and even before the 8th and 9th, but Fortuna was unable to rein in the victory before he probably could’ve.
The victory left a lot to be desired and it doesn’t help that Fortuna sees his performance as a technical improvement on his amateur tendencies. The Dominican-born fighter is 26 years old, which is a complicated age.
We were able to see Fortuna at an early age and we knew he was special in many ways, but we also knew the opponents at the time were a reason to calm our excitement. At 26, Fortuna should be developing into the best fighter he will be, and even if he is still growing into his prime he should be as close as he’s ever been.
The fighter will have to make bigger strides, and he is young enough to suggest there is enough time, but how much better can he get by the time he hits 29 or 30 – it is difficult to say when you take into account that he doesn’t have a complete grasp of his technical lacking.
The rumor was that the winner of this fight would receive a major promotion sometime in early 2016. I’m not sure what a “big” fight looks like at junior lightweight or even lightweight if the fighter moves up, although there are plenty of featherweights in the Haymon stable that would offer up major implications should they decide to move up.
We need Fortuna in a big fight. With a tendency to fight down to his opponents, Fortuna needs to be in a fight where he realizes the potential struggle before the bell rings. A fight where he looks at the tape and realizes that the opponent can either match his usually superior athletic ability or has a sharper boxing IQ to negate any attempts at recklessly relying on those same attributes in a similar manner to the overmatched opponents he’s faced in the past.
Fortuna revealed later that he hurt his left hand early in the fight and that he did not use it much after that, which he attributes to not getting his opponent out earlier. It is a convenient excuse, not that it isn’t true, but if it was his left hand this time, what attributed to these very same tendencies in similar fights prior to tonight?