The blood coming from his face said one thing. Sammy Vasquez says another.
Flashback to June 21: It’s Father’s Day, and Sammy Vasquez Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs) is giving his dad, Sammy Sr., plenty to be proud of.
The elder Vasquez, who also trains his son, was working the corner as his boy juked and countered the cinder-block fists of Nigerian knockout artist Wale Omotoso at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.
With hands moving as fast as the spinning slot machine reels in the nearby casino, Vasquez was controlling the fight with a frenetic work rate, darting around his opponent like a hummingbird, siphoning hope and vigor in place of nectar.
Then, late in the scrap, repeated head clashes opened some angry gashes on Vazquez’s forehead and face.
Undettered, Vasquez fought on just as heatedly as he had been up to that point, pulling away to win a 10-round unanimous decision.
From a distance, the gory visuals suggest that Vasquez had managed to pass the toughest test of his career.
Yeah, not really.
“To this day, I don’t think I’ve been tested yet by anybody,” Vasquez says. “I really haven’t had to dig deep if something wasn’t working, like, ‘OK, I really need to figure out what the hell to do to beat this guy.’”
That’s because he’s beat the hell out of every guy he’s faced.
“Even with Omotoso,” he continues, “he’s a tough fighter, of course, but the only thing that really tested me was the grit of taking the headbutts, having two different cuts on my face and the blood dripping, just staying focused and doing what I needed to do. He caught me with a shot once or twice that was one of his best punches, but it didn’t affect me at all.”
Vasquez isn’t boasting.
He’s as down-to-earth as they come, an approachable, easygoing dude whose grounded personality is like a fog lamp cutting through all the hype thickening around him.
It’s just that the steadily ascending 147-pounder is at the point in his career when he’s looking to be challenged, looking for someone to bring out the true beast in him, like a snake charmer luring a cobra out of its basket.
Will Aron Martinez (19-3-1, 4 KOs), whom Vasquez faces next in a scheduled 12-rounder in Los Angeles on January 23 (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), be that guy?
Vasquez certainly hopes so.
“I want to get pushed,” he says emphatically. “I’m just that type of guy.”
The type of guy that Vasquez has become is traceable to his working-class roots in his blue-collar hometown of Monessen, Pennsylvania, where he grew up before joining the Army National Guard after high school in 2003. Vasquez served two tours of duty in Iraq before turning pro as a boxer in 2012, building a large grassroots following in the Pittsburgh area, where he fills arenas with thousands of fans when he fights.
All this combined with his technically refined yet explosive fighting style has generated plenty of goodwill for Vasquez, even on the most persnickety of boxing blogs and websites.
“They say never to look at things like that, but I look just to see what people have to say,” Vasquez acknowledges. “It’s not really a big thing to me, but it’s pretty cool to see how many people know who I am.
"They just talk so highly of me. It’s just like, ‘Wow.’ I have people who don’t even know who I am, really, just supporting me because of the things that I’ve been through the military, the way I carry myself, the way I present myself.”
The way Vasquez presents himself is as an ordinary guy with a not-so-ordinary skill set.
“I go to Wal-Mart just like everybody else,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, this kid is just like a regular kid. He doesn’t present himself as anybody special.’ I’m just me, man.”
For full coverage of Vasquez vs Martinez, visit our fight page.