Local boxers set to appear on ESPN special Friday

Sara Beth Purdy

Three welterweight competitors will enter the ring at the Erwin Center Friday night to fight in front of a national audience live from their hometowns.

Gilbert Vera, Cory Yett and Zachary Briones will compete in ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. Yett and Briones will face off against each other in a four-round match while Vera will take on Calvin Pitts in a six-round bout.

Vera, nicknamed “Boogie,” graduated from Westwood High School in Northwest Austin. The 25-year-old started boxing at the age of 16 and was constantly surrounded by boxing culture. Both Vera’s brother and father have seen the inside of the ring.

“It is in us to fight,” Vera said. “Everywhere I go I am surrounded by boxing, and it is like a family reunion at the fights.”

Vera’s 11-3-1 record includes five knock-outs. On the way to his goal of being named a world champion, Vera was crowned the 2007 Texas Junior Welterweight Champion along with other accomplishments.

Yett, 30, started boxing at the age of 10 and continued training with his father. To the “South Texas Storm,” his dad’s presence in the ring is the key factor to his success.

“He challenges me to go further,” Yett said. “As a kid you don’t always want to listen to your father, but as the fight gets closer, you want good people in your corner — especially ones who have been around and know what you can do and can pull things out of you that no one else can.”

Yett, who has a record of 2-1, is the Golden Glove South Texas Champ. He graduated from Reagan High School in Austin.

Briones, 22, has been boxing since he was 15 and was obese. What started off as a way to pass time with friends turned into a way of life.

“We thought it would be fun,” Briones said. “After my first beating, I realized that I wasn’t in control and I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. I have seen what my life turns into when I am not boxing. It helps me stay thin.”

Briones attended Akins High School in South Austin but graduated from the Eagle Academy of Austin. He has a 1-0 record.

“There is no offseason so you don’t stop training,” Briones said. “Opportunities are there for a second and then they are gone — you got to be ready. There is no offseason, you just keep training.”