He says the boxing ring is one of the only places he feels truly safe. His opponents can’t say the same.
An Army National Guard veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Sammy Vasquez (21-0, 15 KOs) believes boxing is therapeutic for him, that it calms him in a way.
True to his words, Vasquez was a poised, relaxed presence as the fast-rising 147-pounder dismantled an overwhelmed Aron Martinez (20-5-1, 4 KOs) at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Saturday, winning by sixth-round TKO.
With far superior hand speed and power, Vasquez completely controlled both the pace of the fight and the range at which it took place. The 29-year-old southpaw peppered Martinez with jabs early, then plastered him with straight left hands at will.
Martinez is normally a high-energy, come-forward mauler who likes to shrink the distance between he and his opponent, and hammer away on the inside. But the 34-year-old Mexican was the opposite on this night: tentative, gun-shy and reluctant to lead.
“I didn’t expect that,” Vasquez said of Martinez’s modest offense. “I expected him to come forward and bring it. He tried a couple of times, but I shut him down. There are a lot of people who try to do that, but once they get hit, it doesn’t seem to work that way.”
It’s hard to blame Martinez for not being more active: If he did attempt to get off first and initiate the action, he got blasted by rapid-fire combinations from his stronger, faster opponent.
Martinez had the most successful year of his career in 2015 when he gamely battled former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero to a disputed split-decision loss in June and then beat former two-division titleholder Devon Alexander five months later. But he didn’t look like the same fighter against Vasquez, who stopped his momentum cold.
“ I’m not trying to be cocky in any way, but I honestly felt like it was a sparring match. It wasn’t as tough as I expected it to be. ” Sammy Vasquez, on his victory over Aron Martinez
Vasquez kept his hands low at times as if to lure Martinez in, but the latter seldom took the bait. Instead, Vasquez stalked down his opponent, rocking him to the head and body with both hands.
It didn’t help matters for Martinez that he apparently hurt his left elbow early in the fight.
“I started to feel it in the third round,” Martinez said. “I couldn't throw my jab.”
The injury would prove to be decisive, as Martinez failed to answer the bell for Round 7, causing referee Eddie Hernandez to end the fight.
"I was doing OK, not my best,” Martinez said. “I tried, but once I hurt my elbow, I knew it was going to be tough to continue."
His inability to do so gave Vasquez his 10th stoppage victory in his last 12 contests.
After the fight, Vasquez sounded disappointed that the night ended so abruptly.
“I wasn’t even tired, like whatsoever,” he said. “I could have went 12 [rounds] easy. I’m not trying to be cocky in any way, but I honestly felt like it was a sparring match. It wasn’t as tough as I expected it to be.”
Indeed, when evaluating his performance, Vasquez was tougher on himself after the fight than his opponent was during it.
“I give myself a 'C'. I could have boxed better,” he said. “I could have picked my shots a little bit better. He only landed a couple of shots that I noticed, but it shouldn’t have even been that much.
"I need to learn to dictate my pace a little bit better, be a little more precise on my punches, not stand straight up so much on certain punches. I critique myself hard, man.”
One area in which both Vasquez and Martinez excelled on this night, though, was trash-talking, as they jawed at each other repeatedly.
“He was like, ‘Come on, bring it,’” Vasquez said. “I’m like, ‘No, dude, I ain’t playin’ into your game. I ain’t like those other guys, you know what I mean?’”
Yes, we do. And now, so does Aron Martinez.
For full coverage of Vasquez vs Martinez, visit our fight page.