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Eloy Perez, former title challenger, remembered fondly by loved ones

Photo from WBC
21
Oct

You live a life, and you are lucky if you get any kind of writeup in a publication. Bold-faced names, once their time in the sun fades, and generations come and their name doesn’t ring that bell, they can be reduced to a short paragraph. It is the way of this world – the globe spins, time passes, new beings and feats entrance us, older ones fade into history.

Some fight fans will recall the name Eloy Perez, mostly likely stemming from his status as a foe for Adrien Broner, then an up and coming possible heir to Floyd Mayweather, back in 2013.

Perez lost that fight, and then dealt with an added insult, when it was revealed he tested positive for cocaine.

At the time, Perez, who grew up in the state of Washington, and also resided in California, was promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, during the period when Richard Schaefer was front and center in their day-to-day business.



The Broner fight was the last professional outing for Perez, and he’d become something of an occasion “whatever happened to…” query among fight game hardcores. Until this weekend, when word broke that Perez had died. He’s been out of the sporting spotlight for a good spell, but his character and personality impacted those who came to know him. For that, he deserves more than a short paragraph.

That high wattage smile sticks in the minds of those that loved Eloy.

Perez, age 32, died in Tijuana, Mexico, where he’d been exiled, after being offered a deal that was hard to see, from us on the outside, where the upside lay. Eloy’s sister, Emma Perez said he died Oct. 5, and the circumstances, the specifics of that death, are shrouded by the distance that kept Eloy from most of his family and loved ones.

Perez, who was born in Mexico, was and is more than a mere footnote to fight game publicist Rachel Charles, and she isn’t keen to linger as much on the ending of the kid she took under a wing, but more so the fond memories she stores. The long-time PR person, who works with Sheer Management, made a lasting impression on the media relations ace.

“I was introduced to Eloy through Roberto Diaz the matchmaker for Golden Boy,” Charles says. “I came in to work the press for him. We connected instantly on a level that I hadn’t experienced before. He was such a sweet kid..total savage in the ring but outside the ring he was simply Eloy, no bells and whistles. He would say ‘Miss Rachel, stop grinding my gears’ or he’d say ‘I just called to grind your gears.’ I came to love him as one would love their little brother. There was a million legit reasons to love this kid. Eloy was the type of kid that you just wanted to look after and keep him close. This isn’t a loss to the boxing community, it’s a loss to the world as a whole.  

“When Adrien Broner grabbed him around his neck at the weigh-in and he stood his ground, I was proud of him…we laughed after and thought about wearing a neck brace for his ring walk,” she continued, chuckling.

Broner was the A side, the Mayweather apparent. But Eloy doesn’t seem overwhelmed at the task in this pre-fight picture.

“When Broner KO’ed him I couldn’t get in the ring fast enough, I just needed to see that he was ok. We recently made plans to meet up in Tijuana in December. My heart breaks for his mom and family. My heart is broken for a beautiful life interrupted. I will never ever forget Eloy ‘The Prince’ Perez. Him being in my life did more for me than me for him. There’s always one and for me he was it!”

The circumstances of Perez’ death are more than a bit murky. Sister Emma Perez, age 28, and lives in Rainier, Washington. She shared with The Ring her knowledge of the sad saga. “He was murdered,” Emma says. “He did not commit suicide,” which has been rumored. “He went missing on Friday the 4th and they found him deceased on the 5th. I found out at 6 a.m. that Saturday from his girlfriend.”

And how will she proceed, being that feels that this was a matter of foul play?

“I don’t believe it’s foul play, I know it was. It states in the morgue documents. They can’t release any information to me other than that.”

There is a fund raising page set up, Emma says, so that Eloy’s body can be brought from Mexico, to Washington. And can she do anything to try and get more information? “Nothing, I’m going to be as real as I can about this. Murders never get solved in Tijuana, they wanted us to keep the body to have him buried there because the investigation. We refused, we just want him home, that’s all. My brother is just another body to them that they want to bury and get rid of. My brother deserves that dignity to be home where he belongs because the system failed him,” she replies. Yes, she said, her brother did have some missteps, some DUIs, but he needed treatment, to deal with issues, especially after his best friend passed away, Emma said.

“Sending him to a country he never had been before, he never knew that lifestyle.”

Vibrant colors suit Eloy’s personality…and splashes of dark, too, are appropriate.

Tijuana was declared the most violent city in the world this summer, by Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice. The border city, home to 1.8 million people, suffered 2,519 homicides in 2018. That’s 40 percent more than in 2017, then a record.

“We have too many bodies here,” Tijuana morgue director César González Vaca told the newspaper Milenio, noting that the capacity there is 100, and 280 bodies were inside during one June pocket of time.

Emma feels immense grief that Uncle Eloy won’t be there to goof with her kids anymore, and admits to being sad that they weren’t always on the sunniest of terms. You want to tell her that people are imperfect beings, most all of us do the best we can, and mean well. She worried hard about Eloy when he was deported to Mexico, where he was born. He came here without being processed, with his parents, at age two,  and was deported in 2016 after he spent more than a year at the immigrant detention center in Tacoma. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement organization runs a detention center in Tacoma; I asked them to confirm that Eloy had been in the system and they sent a synopsis of his case, from their perspective.

“On March 15, 2016, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged a detainer with the Grays Harbor County Jail on Eloy Perez-Montealegre after his arrest on local charges. The jail released Perez-Montealegre without notification to ICE. On March 30, 2016, ICE arrested Perez-Montealegre at his residence without incident and housed him at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Washington, pending immigration proceedings. An immigration judge granted Perez-Montealegre voluntary departure under safeguards, and ICE returned him to Mexico Nov. 15, 2016. While in the U. S. illegally, Perez-Montealegre was convicted for driving under the influence on two occasions, once in July 2012 and a second time in January 2013.”

It’s no secret that immigration, so-called “illegal immigration,” and questions over border stringency is a growing issue in America, and much of the world. Climate change, and drift resulting from citizens seeking exodus from war torn or famine-struck regions are the exception rather than the norm.

Professor Beth Caldwell, from Southwester Law School, wrote a book called “Deported Americans: Life After Deportation to Mexico.” She gave out a sense of the frequency regarding when a person who has been a long-time citizen of the United States gets shipped to Mexico. “The numbers are unclear, but I can say that in the border regions of Mexico, deportees who grew up in the United States are everywhere,” Caldwell says.

There are a lot of people who have been deported to identify as Americans – I call this population deported Americans. In terms of hard numbers, here’s the best I have: A study of deportees in the El Bordo region of Tijuana, which has a high concentration of homeless deportees, found that 62% of those surveyed had lived in the US for over 10 years, and 35% had lived in the US for over 20 years.”

Before the recent slide, not that long ago, hopes were high that he could show the boxing world that Adrien Broner wasn’t all that, and how strong a Washington-area contender could perform. Perez came in to the bout against Broner seemingly confident about his chances to down AB, then battling in the 130 pound class. Roy Jones, working at HBO, told watchers that Perez had a good jab and solid hand speed. Family and friends recall his shining eyes, and him being ready with a grin. HBO fight watchers saw a glimpse of the delightful aura. He smiled as he talked about how he’d do against Broner. “We’ll see,” he said, after being asked about the trash talk the hitters had engaged in trash talk and some scuffling at the weigh in. Blow by blow man Bob Papa noted that Perez had seemed to enjoy the buildup, and said Perez seemed happy go lucky during the fighter meeting.

Come fight night on that Feb. 25th 2013 evening at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Broner was up, 3-0, but Perez didn’t look out of place. Then, a lead right hand – this was Broner’s fourth or so step-up-to-buzz-y-prospect scrap, people were heavily tantalized by his promise– buzzed Perez and then some in round four. He hit the deck, stumbled up, tried again to right himself, and stumbled into the ropes. The ref stopped counting at five, and decided on a TKO. It was not assumed that would be the last professional outing for the loser.

The Garcia team, manager Kathy, trainer, her husband Max and son Sam had high hopes for the kid, and were saddened when he edged away from the sport after the positive test. Sam Garcia, an assistant trainer to father Max, part of that family-run training and management team from Salinas, CA, touched on the sad-ending story with RING.

“It’s a sad subject obviously because of the outcome, he was a likable person with a lot of charisma. We had a great relationship going forward in his boxing career. One thing I think that’s misunderstood is that it was the loss that crushed him this causing his downward spiral. I don’t think that was the case at all, he was fine after the loss and we had plans to move forward with Golden Boy to fight again in San Jose, CA soon after knowing Broner would soon out-grow 130 pounds.

“But he tested positive for cocaine and we felt he needed help outside the ring… So many questions to answer, why and how, but obviously we were pissed about this outcome with such great opportunities ahead. He had family, a girlfriend and friends… we can only make him do so much, and he spiraled down getting DUIs and what not. We moved on, he moved on. But after some time passed, we got back in touch, he wanted to make a comeback. It was the same time as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao (2015), he flew in but it didn’t last. He ended up heading back to Washington.

“I don’t know how or why he was deported to Mexico but I was in touch with him through social media. He would ask me for money, I sent him money a few weeks in a row but finally said I can’t anymore. That was the end of our communications. He did a lot of good while he was here,  he participated in charity events and helped with a young boy named Sy Sherman, who was terminally ill with pediatric cancer. But those demons were hard for him to over come and eventually his down fall. I pray his soul is at peace.”

Sister Emma wanted readers to know not about losses and personal life travails…but the sunnier side of Eloy’s persona. A few people that knew him have counseled her, gently, that he is now in a better place, and his hidden darkness would not be that constant and unwanted companion. “We always didn’t get along, he was the big brother but I always took care of him when I was the baby sister,” she says.

“The roles changed, we would compete for our mom and would always ask her who she liked more, obviously she loves us the same but that was her baby. He was a man-child. He loved everyone, and always wanted to make everyone happy. He loved kids even though he had none of his own. When my son Robert was born he was over the moon, he called him baby Bobby and adored him, took him everywhere with him always wanted me to leave him with him. Unfortunately my youngest never got to meet his uncle, he was able to see him one time at the detention center but never got to touch him or hold him.”

Girlfriend Jannel Herrera of Norwalk, CA met Eloy at a Memorial Day BBQ last year, through a mutual friend, in Tijuana She live in Norwalk during the week for work and spends the weekends in Tijuana.

“He was the coolest cupcake I ever met,” she says. “He was a really good hearted person.”

Eloy could drive his gal-pal cuckoo, but she couldn’t stay mad at him for long.

One who, she says, had been working to stay on a straighter and narrower path. He’d look to steer clear of drink and whatever else might be tempting, so, she says, he could continue to have Jannel in his life.

“He battled demons like everyone, just like myself,” she says.  “(But) I helped him to get on the right path.”

Eloy had been in Tijuana for almost three years, Jannel says, and she has a house there, where she goes on weekends. “It’s a different country, you gotta be careful if you have grown up in a different environment. Eloy didn’t belong there, he had a great big heart…but it was a completely different lifestyle. You gotta stick to yourself. Some people were threatened by him, envious. They were scared knowing his history (as a boxer).”

Eloy died on Oct. 5, Jannel saw him the day before. They had a spat, and he took off, which, she said, he’d sometimes do. He had said in their last brouhaha that he’d make him miss her that much more, next time. She went back to CA on Sunday, and by Monday, was getting a bit worried. She has cameras at the Mexico house and dogs, and Eloy, she figured, would go to the house and take care of the dogs. He didn’t show up. Jannel asked people to look for him, and one made a check at the morgue, but, apparently, missed Eloy’s body there. On Friday, she went to Tijuana, and arrived late. She went looking in hospitals, jails and filed a missing person report. Then, she went for another try at the morgue.

“I discovered his body at the morgue,” she relayed. “I asked what happened and they said it was a homicide. I was and am trying to get more details.” Eloy had complained of feeling sick the last week of his life, so, she said, she thought maybe he’d contracted pneumonia. She wants the body to be released and then, perhaps, she can get more details on the circumstances of his demise. And how is she coping? “It has hit me. I have a lot of videos of him. All we did was laugh together, my only way to cope is to laugh. I’m not very good at things like this.” Yes, they talked about getting married. “He wanted to. I wanted to see where things were going.”

We are left with words of remembrance, and videos, on phones and posted to social media. You see a smile that is wide and deep and eyes that shine.

Eloy Perez,  born in 1986, died in 2019. His smile will stay, much longer, in the minds and a corner of the hearts of loved ones.

But you know that his “partying,” he wasn’t doing that to celebrate, he was probably self medicating, trying to blot out the dark, quell some sadness inside him. Did Jannel ever get into that emotional place with him, help him process the presence of dark clouds over his head?

“He talked to me about it a lot, everyone has a sad side, some deal with things better than others. I feel he just needed someone who understood him to let him know it’s ok to feel a certain way,” she says. “He always told me he wished he met me sooner.”

POST-SCRIPT: Eloy has been brought back home, from Tijuana, to Washington. Emma and Jannel worked to raise money to enable the return to home base for the fighter who is now able to stop battling. “He’s getting transferred to San Diego tomorrow (Tuesday),” Emma shared. “Eloy is at the funeral home in Mexico, they will transfer him for us. But I did all the paper-work and he’s going to be cremated in San Diego and then his girlfriend is bringing him home.” No, closure likely won’t come as quickly as would be ideal. But Emma left Tijuana able to focus on some positives. “Knowing he was loved there made me happy!”

 

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