Michael Angelo Perez: ‘I’m ready to challenge for a world title’
It was all going so well for Michael Angelo Perez early in his pro career. He was unbeaten, had the backing of a major promoter and was described as a can’t-miss prospect.
Then came Jan. 6, 2012.
Across the ring from him at the Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in Indio, Calif. was Omar Figueroa Jr., a fellow unbeaten fighter. Perez was favored to win but, to the shock of those at ringside and watching on television, Figueroa’s arm was raised in victory via stoppage.
Figueroa went on to win a major title but Perez has had to work very hard to prove he’s not some sort of flash in the pan. A newfound confidence and working with one of the best trainers in boxing are examples of the strengths Perez has discovered and he is now turning doubters into believers.
Perez will fight Luis Sanchez on Saturday night in a 10-round bout at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, Calif. in support of the main event featuring Mauricio Herrera vs. Henry Lundy, as part of an HBO Latino telecast, which starts at 11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. PT.
Perez (22-1-2, 10 KOs) was scheduled to face fellow lightweight contender Sharif Bogere but Bogere withdrew from the fight due to an undisclosed injury during training camp.
The 25-year-old Perez faces a fighter in Sanchez (17-3-1, 5 KOs) who has won his last six fights in a row, including wins over former world title challenger Miguel Beltran Jr. and unbeaten Adan Mares.
“I was training for Sharif Bogere but for the last week-and-a-half, it’s been Sanchez,” Perez told RingTV during a phone interview earlier this week. “I’ve seen that Sanchez fights a lot like Miguel Acosta (whom Perez defeated in his last bout on Jan. 20). It takes me two or three rounds to get going but I can make the necessary adjustments if I need to.”
Perez, known as “The Artist,” couldn’t make those adjustments in his fight against Figueroa, who took the initiative and fought aggressively from the opening round, something Perez couldn’t overcome going into the second half of the fight.
Down on the scorecards, Perez remained on his stool after the sixth round.
Perez believed there was a silver lining behind the loss, one that has made him not take the sport lightly and allowed him to grow as a fighter.
“I shouldn’t have gone into that fight not having conditioning or a nutritionist,” said Perez, who was born and raised in Newark, NJ. “I was in shape but I did not rehydrate properly. It affected me from the opening bell. By the end of the second round, I had no legs and I felt weak. My trainer told me to move around and try to box but that didn’t help me.
“I learned a lot that night. It made me a better man. It made me grow mentally and physically. I feel that I’ve come a long way. I’ve gotten better with every fight. I know it and I feel it.”
One reason Perez has improved is by working with trainer Robert Garcia. Perez has now worked with Garcia for about a year, migrating to Oxnard, Calif. to train.
There have been noticeable changes that Garcia has made with Perez, like sitting down more on his punches. But it is the confidence factor Perez believes Garcia has instilled more in him.
“Robert has brought a lot of confidence in me. He’ll ask me in camp, ‘Are you going to be my next world champ?’ It’s his method of training that has made multiple world champions.”
With all the variables in place, Perez will attempt to make a run at a championship soon enough. Whether he will receive one later this year or in 2016 remains to be seen but Perez is in a better place than he was on the night of Jan. 6, 2012.
He is eager to blaze more trails, all of which will lead to that day on which he could a world title.
“I’m ready for anybody, whoever has a belt. Robert and my team feel I’m ready to challenge for a world title. First things first, I’ll be ready for Saturday.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.