By Ricardo Ibarra
In a super middleweight showdown, Pacific Northwest prospect Mike “Imagine Me” Gavronski (23-2-1, 14 KOs) will face one of the division’s long-time gate-keepers in Austin, Texas’ Brian Vera (26-11, 16 KOs) this Saturday at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, headlining the 112th edition of Brian Halquist Productions’ ‘Battle at the Boat’ series. The fight has important implications for both fighters as they each look to maintain their current momentum, spurred on by a recent string of victories.
Gavronski began a run of three consecutive wins late last year, bouncing back from a disappointing loss to Dashon Johnson in 2015 with a sixth round stoppage of previously unbeaten Australian Jake Carr in September. He followed that up with decision wins over Thomas Awimbono in November and Quinton Rankin this past June, working his way back into the #5 spot on the NABA’s rankings and the #4 position on the NABF’s. The rangy boxer from Tacoma, who’s only other loss came against Tureano Johnson in a 2014 fight for the vacant WBC Continental America’s middleweight title, has an opportunity to further his upward movement in the ratings as he faces one of his toughest assignments.
“This is as important a fight as Mike’s had,” said Gavronski’s manager Sam Ditusa. “If he can get through this and look good doing it, I’m sure this is going to put him in a good spot. Vera is a solid guy, a world title contender. This is big.”
Vera, a former WBO-NABO middleweight title holder, has been a stalwart fringe contender for some time and faced many of the top fighters around the middleweight divisions. In 2008 he defeated Andy Lee, who was undefeated at the time, stopping him in the seventh round. Lee would go on to win the WBO middleweight championship. He also holds two wins over former WBC Jr. middleweight title holder Sergio Mora, defeating him by decision in 2011 and again in 2012, and a victory over former WBO 154 lbs. champ Serhiy Dzinziruk, whom he stopped in the tenth round of their 2013 meeting to claim the WBO-NABO strap.
Vera had been on a five-fight string of losses, beginning in 2013 with back to back decision defeats to former WBC 160 lbs. belt holder Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., but bounced back last October with a majority decision win over Juan Carlos Rojas. He followed that up with a second round TKO over Larry Smith in January and a fifth round stoppage win over Milton Nunez in June to annex the vacant Texas State light heavyweight title.
The battle-tested Vera, who has given fans some memorable fights over the years, is looking for one more opportunity at something significant before ending his thirteen-year career.
“This fight is a must win for me,” said Vera from his training camp in Texas. “I’m closing in on the end of my career so if I lose this fight, I don’t know if I’m going to box anymore. It’s that important for me.”
“I’ve got a good camp going,” Vera went on to say. “I’ve got a good team behind me. This fight right here I think will do a lot for me. I’ve got too much experience for this guy. I’ve got to go out there and show it.”
Gavronski and Vera will meet in the ten round main event of what has shaped up to be a solid Northwest card, courtesy of promoter Brian Halquist and matchmaker Andy Nance.
In the semi-main event, the scrappy Andres Reyes (7-2-1, 2 KOs), of Yakima, Washington, will take on Andre Keys (3-1, 1 KO), of Tacoma, in a five round welterweight match-up. Reyes is on a two-fight knockout streak, with his most recent win being a first round TKO of Will Hughes in June. Keys, once a decorated local amateur, defeated the tough Nate Serrano in his last fight, taking a unanimous decision victory. Both fighters are tricky, skilled competitors, which sets the stage for what should be a good fight.
In a Jr. welterweight contest that promises to deliver action, Arlington, Washington’s Ricardo Maldonado (7-6-1, 1 KO) squares off with Marcos Cardenas (6-6-1, 2 KOs), of Salem, Oregon. Stylistically the two match up well, with Maldonado being a rangy fighter with a busy work-rate and Cardenas having an aggressive, come forward approach. Maldonado last fought in January, knocking out previously unbeaten Jaime Ocegueda in the sixth round. Cardenas also last stepped into the ring in January, losing to undefeated Giovanni Cabrera-Mioletti by decision. They will meet in a five rounder that has the potential to be an explosive affair.
Making up the remainder of the card will be Shae Green (1-0) taking on Niko McFarland (0-4) in a four round Jr. welterweight rematch; Tommy Turner (4-7, 3 KOs) squaring off with Cole Milani (2-5, 2 KOs) in a light heavyweight tilt; and in a welterweight match-up, Jorge Linares will make his pro debut against Jesse Barich (0-2).
Doors to the I-5 showroom at the Emerald Queen Casino open at 6 p.m. with the first fight set to start at 7 p.m. Tickets to ‘Battle at the Boat 112’ can be purchased at the EQC box office and all Ticketmaster locations. For more information visit www.halquistproductions.com.