The loss haunted him. You got the impression Danny O'Connor was even seeing Gabriel Bracero in his nightmares. Then Bracero did just that, re-entering his subconscious by putting O’Connor to sleep a mere 41 seconds into their rematch on the Premier Boxing Champions show on NBCSN, Saturday night from the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, in Lowell, Mass.
Bracero needed a confidence boost, coming off a loss to undefeated Felix Diaz back in April.
A perfectly placed right hand provided it for Bracero, who’s not a power puncher. A quick step to the left, and an anvil right on O’Connor’s jaw brought the main event to a quick end—and certainly placed Bracero’s knockout on the pantheon of 2015 contenders for “Knockout of the Year.”
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It’s the first time the 34-year-old Bracero (24-2, 5 KOs) stopped an opponent in almost three years, dating back to his fourth-round TKO over Johnnie Edwards in Dec. 2012.
“As far as the feeling, it’s an amazing feeling,” said an emotional Bracero. “My message to Danny was after my last loss, I went into a depression and I told him to pick himself back up and go home and be proud of himself. I didn’t want the same thing happening to him that happened to me. I worked on that punch in the gym. Because he’s a southpaw, so I had to keep my left leg outside of his right leg. It was just stepping over to the left and swinging with all my might. God bless Danny. God has blessed me with a second chance in life.”
O’Connor (26-3, 10 KOs), a southpaw fighting on his home turf, vowed he was a different fighter from the one who lost to Bracero over four-and-a-half years ago. He may need to rethink that, after referee Arthur Mercante Jr. quickly waved the fight over after Bracero connected on his second punch.
On the undercard, featherweights Ryan Kielczewski and Rafael Vazquez went 10 rounds for the first time in both of their careers. But it was the 26-year-old Kielczewski (24-1, 7 KOs) that outlasted the 37-year-old Vazquez (16-2, 13 KOs) by unanimous scores of 96-94 and 97-93 twice.
Kielczewski survived a late scare to pull through. Sensing he was down, Vazquez’ corner pushed him to take a major chance and go after “The Polish Prince.” With roughly a minute left in the fight, Vazquez unfurled a left hook that caught Kielczewski clean. Kielczewski was reeling, backing into a corner. Vazquez pursued, yet couldn’t finish. Kielczewski stepped out and escaped, and the faint hope Vazquez, who punched himself out, had quickly dissipated.
Kielczewski connected on 177 of 668 punches (26-percent), while Vazquez landed at a higher percentage (31), though threw considerably fewer punches, landing 141 of 448. The jab may have been the key for Kielczewski, who landed 73 of 362 (20-percnt), to Vazquez’ 31 of 132 (23-percent).
“It’s all the hard work in the gym, we spent hours and hours, just to get ready for this guy,” said Kielczewski, his left eye slightly swollen. “I knew (Vazquez) could punch, and I thought I avoided it for the whole fight and then in the 10th round he got me. It felt pretty good to get rocked for the first time, just to know what it feels like. He did it. It was great. I started off a little slow, but in the middle rounds, I started putting my punches together, throwing, four, five, six punches at a time and it was working.”
Vazquez was understandably disappointed. But he couldn’t deal with Kielczewski’s movement, which he admitted.
“I’m 122 pounds and I moved up to face (Kielczewski),” Vazquez said. “I thought I won the last three rounds, especially the 10th round. I rocked him and hurt him. But we’re fighting in his hometown and I blessed for being here.”
In a scheduled 10-round super bantamweight fight, Jonathan Guzman (20-0, 20 KOs) entered new waters going beyond six rounds for the first time in his career. Guzman, 26, knocked the game Danny Aquino (17-3, 10 KOs) twice in the second round, found an easy rhythm and got some work in since he went six rounds with Emerson Santos Carvalho in Nov. 2012. Aquino, who handed Kielczewski his only loss, also went the longest of his career, going beyond eight rounds. That was about the only thing the 25-year-old Mexican, who now lives in Meriden, Connecticut, could take away from the fight.
He posed little threat to the heavy-handed Guzman, who hails from the Dominican Republic and was fighting in the United States for the fourth-straight time. Guzman finally finished Aquino at 1:19 of the ninth round, starting with a right hand, followed by a left hook. But then, referee Jackie Morrell saw enough, stepping in and waving it over. Aquino was stopped for the first time in his career.
The punch stats were a little deceiving, however. They showed Guzman connected on 154 of 633 total punches thrown (24-percent), while Aquino was accurate on 147 of 551 total punches thrown (27-percent). Even the jabs were skewed, revealing Aquino connected on 46 of 212 jabs (22-percent), and Guzman landed 37 of 327 (11-percent). Guzman did hold the edge in power, with 117 of 306 finding Aquino (38-percent), to the Mexican’s 101 of 339 (30-percent).
“I proved I can fight and I can punch, and tonight is an example of what I can do,” Guzman said through a translator. “I want a championship fight.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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