I am better than that.
That wasn't me. I mean, it was me, but not the best version of me. I will be better.
That is the operating mindset of Jayson Velez, the Puerto Rican hitter with a 22-0-1 (16 Kos) mark, who debuted as a pro in 2007, and gloves up Thursday night, on the LA Fight Night card at the Belasco Theater in LA, CA.
He meets 11-2 Daniel Ramirez and seeks to begin, in earnest, the climb back from a high-profile draw, in his last outing.
That scrap took place last November, against Evgeny Gradovich, in an IBF world title clash. Grado just dropped his strap, on Saturday, to Lee Selby, incidentally. The 27 year old Puerto Rican boxer, a polite and pretty soft spoken guy, told me about his plans for Thursday and a bit beyond. We chatted on the phone while I was at Barclays Center, covering the Friday night Khan-Algieri card. So, periodic bursts of fan appreciation spurted while I talked to Velez. First off, that Gradovich tangle…”I want to show the people I'm better than I was that night,” he told me. He has a better jab than he showed, wants to use it more, and knows that while he trained hard, he needs to train even harder to get over that proverbial hump.
The hump could re-appear pretty quick; Velez is ranked number 4 by the WBC; number 9 by the WBA; number 4 by the IBF; and number 9 by the WBO. “I'm ready to fight Gradovich again…but I have to win Thursday first,” he noted.
If you haven't seen Velez, he can crack to the body, is rangey, uses his jab to good effect, keeps a clear head in the ring, sometimes forgets to move laterally instead of north-south, can be susceptible to a swift counter, could empoy a bit more head and torso movement, and is a danger to strike with a nasty flurry if you're not awake.
The fighter, who is married, with three kids and a step son, said that he is pumped to debut on the LA fight Club. The vibe at these events has been hopping, he said, so the atmosphere will be conducive to a solid, energetic and entertaining showing. As for ‘Huracan’ Ramirez (11-1, 5 KOs), “I don't know too much about him, he's a Mexican fighter, he comes forward, goes to the body. Is he maybe not on my level? If you maybe think a guy is not on your level, every fighter wants to take your head off!”
Velez told me he sort of fell into boxing. He grew up with a brother and sister ina stable home, with mom and his step dad. He wanted to do karate, and went to a place that he thought had classes…but the classes were for boxing. He was 11. The boxing bug bit him…He also liked basketball, baseball and volleyball, but by 17, boxing drew away from the pack.
His 10-rounds or less featherweight bout will run on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes. Velez is favored; Ramirez has lost when he's stepped up, to Guy Robb, who just signed with Top Rank, and streaking Eric Hunter. But, as Velez pointed out, every guy is in there to take your head off…