As somebody who writes about boxing, I try to avoid being a fan of individual fighters. I certainly have fighters I enjoy watching more than others. And when it comes to some of the stars of earlier eras, like Larry Holmes or Marvelous Marvin Hagler, I still view them to some degree the way I did as a 15-year-old fan. As far as Muhammad Ali is concerned, he is my favorite athlete or celebrity of any kind.
But when I view the contemporary scene, I generally maintain a detachment. I applaud great performance and revel in great fights. But I don’t generally invest myself in a particular star.
It’s impossible to avoid exceptions, though. And in the case of undefeated welterweight Sammy Vasquez, I make no apologies for doing so. When I was 18, I went to Fort Benning, Georgia and trained as a mechanized infantryman. Two weeks after turning 20, I deployed as a part of Operation Desert Storm. As a soldier who served two combat tours in Iraq, Vasquez is a member of my fraternity. So I want him to achieve great things in the sport and I’ll be cheering for him on Saturday night when he faces tough veteran Aaron Martinez on the undercard for Danny Garcia vs. Robert Guerrero.
In addition to his combat tours, Vasquez won multiple Armed Forces tournaments and reached the semi-finals of the 2012 Olympic trials, where he lost to Errol Spence and Amir Imam, two elite amateurs who have so far impressed as professionals.
Vasquez has been impressive as a professional as well. He’s defeated three undefeated fighters in his career. Last May he won a hard-fought scrap against tough contender Wale Omotoso. In November, he knocked out another good fringe contender in Jose Lopez.
It’s possible that Vasquez will face his toughest test to date in Martinez. Martinez has very little power, with just four KOs in 25 fights. In April 2014, he was knocked out by Josesito Lopez. But 2015 was a good year for Maritnez. He knocked down Guerrero before losing by split decision to Robert Guerrero in June. In October, he defeated former IBF champion Devon Alexander, a signature win for him.
Sammy Vasquez should be too rugged for Martinez. He’s a solid boxer who has dealt with bullets missing him by inches, so nothing he deals with on Saturday night will be intimidating. And he’ll have every boxing fan who currently serves in the army, or did in the past, sending him every good intention that they can.