Going into his first fight in almost three years, Marcus McDaniel figured he didn’t need to knock out veteran Bryan Vera to win.
Given that McDaniel had only two knockouts in his first 14 bouts, that’s never been his style anyway.
But an unexpected first-round knockdown certainly made the undefeated New Orleanian’s path to victory easier as he scored a decisive unanimous decision before a full house Saturday in the Calliope Coliseum.
“We had a plan, and that was to box and stay away from him,” said McDaniel now 15-0. “That was Bryan Vera, and he’s been in with the best of them, so you had to respect him.”
Not only was McDaniel, a super-middleweight, fighting for the first time since April of 2016, but he was injured six months ago in an unsolved shooting.
None of that seemed to matter Saturday as McDaniel landed a looping right about 30 seconds into the six-round bout that sent Vera (26-15) sprawling backwards. He was up quickly and never in trouble again, but the tone of the fight had been set.
“I’ve never knocked anybody down like that before,” said McDaniel, 34. “My trainer (Chase Dixon) and promoter (Les Bonano) told me, ‘You’re ahead on the scorecard now, so just keep moving.
“That’s what we’ve been working on in the gym, and it paid off.”
McDaniel got another break in the second round when Vera was penalized a point for repeated hitting on the breaks. That helped McDaniel build a final 59-53 advantage on all three judges’ scorecards.
Vera, 37, won only the third round when he managed to catch up to McDaniel and land some effective combinations. But otherwise it was mainly McDaniel winning the exchanges when the two did come together while otherwise circling himself away and out of danger.
“He was on his wheels,” said Vera, a one-time ranked contender from Austin, Texas, who has now lost his last four bouts. “I wanted to catch him, but he kept getting away.
“It was going to be hard to beat to beat him here, anyway. Getting knocked down like that didn’t help me any.”
By the sixth round McDaniel was so confident he was cupping his ears to encourage the crowd while still staying out of Vera’s range.
Vera finally pinned McDaniel on the ropes for the final 20 seconds, but McDaniel caught most of the shots on his arms.
“I knew how tough he was,” McDaniel said. “I was getting the crowd in it, and there at the end I wanted to show I was tough, too.”
Despite his fighter’s impressive showing, Dixon said McDaniel will have to do much more if he wants to step up in class.
“The knockdown put Marcus in his comfort level,” he said. “He needs to do more body work next time, and he absolutely has to show some more power.”
“We were able to stick to the plan tonight, but you don’t always get that.
For his part, McDaniel, posed for dozens of pictures after the fight, winding up with one with his six children, said returning to the ring after he become dissatisfied with the way things were progressing for him was totally rewarding.
“This was overwhelming,” he said. “If God wants to take me right now, that would be OK.
“But this isn’t the end. If I can hang with him (Vera) after all this time, I know there are better things ahead.”
In other bouts:
• Going against undoubtedly the largest opponent he will ever face, undefeated heavyweight Jonathan Guidry (15-0-2) of Dulac stopped 411-pound Dustin Nichols of Columbia, Mississippi, in the first round.
“He’s a fighter; he was swinging (and missing)," said Guidry, no lightweight himself at 245. “I tried setting him up with some body shots, but they’re weren’t bothering him too much.”
With the body shots not having any effect, Guidry ended it with three straight rights to the head, the last of which sent Nichols (5-12) almost tumbling out of the ring, after which referee Bruce McDaniel stopped it.
Despite the ease of the victory, Guidry said he has work to do.
“I’ve got to start running more and get in better shape,” he said. “I’m not going to be fighting many other people like this.”
• Light heavyweight Sean “Silky” Hemphill of New Orleans made an impressive pro debut, stopping Dominque Moore (1-1-1) halfway through the first round.
Hemphill, who has been one of the area’s top amateurs for the past eight years, was actually knocked down in the opening seconds. But after Moore appeared to land more blows while he was down, Hemphill came back with a fury, knocked Moore down three times before the referee stopped it.
“Nobody wants to touch the floor,” Hemphill said. “So I came up and got after it.
“I wanted to show what I’m made of and that I would do whatever it takes to win. I’ve been training for this one a long time and I love the feeling it gives you.”
• New Orleans resident by way of Bulgaria Iliyan Kolev improved to 2-0 with first-round knockout of Nathaniel Trepagnier (1-1) of Noman, Oklahoma, in a middleweight bout.
Kolev went after Trepagnier from the start, knocking him down less than 30 seconds into the bout and then twice more before knocking him out.
• Super welterweight Kevin Green of New Orleans (2-0-1) of New Orleans dominated Antonio Hernandez (1-7) in four-round decision.
• Light heavyweight Aaron John Valentine of New Orleans made a successful pro debut with a third-round stoppage of Clay Smith (0-2), also of New Orleans.