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The Same Ol' Yonnhy Perez

(Photo © Howard Schatz)
(Photo © Howard Schatz)

In what is a reprisal of an action-packed affair from last year, Yonnhy Perez faces Joseph Agbeko from the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington in the first round of Showtime’s four-man single-elimination bantamweight tournament. Perez had quite the Halloween in 2009 as he lifted the IBF bantamweight crown from Agbeko in Las Vegas by the scores of 117-110 twice and 116-111. Back then, the native of Colombia was a relatively unknown fighter from the West Coast, while Agbeko was riding high, coming off a victory over Vic Darchinyan.

On that night, he got more of a trick than treat from Perez.

Last Friday afternoon at the Santa Fe Springs Activity Center, Perez told Maxboxing before his workout that he had the element of surprise on his side that night. "Even on yesterday’s interview, he said he was surprised by all the punches I threw," Perez said, through his trainer Danny Zamora, referring to a conference call that both boxers participated in last week. "But Agbeko had to be prepared; they saw video of me. But I don’t think he knew about the power that came with my punches."

When asked what he recalls most vividly about their initial encounter, Perez said with a bit of annoyance, "The first thing I remember is him being a dirty fighter, the headbutts- I ended up walking away with 13 stitches; I got seven on one side, six on the other side- and he throws a lot of punches. He’s a fighter that threw a lot of punches, very active. But what it was was mostly the headbutts."

Perez is currently one of the best all-action fighters in the sport. He is a strong, tough fighter who is a volume puncher. Bottom line is that Agbeko, for all his activity, was simply overwhelmed at times by Perez’s own sheer volume of leather.

"I know that I believe in my fighter, that his conditioning is the best out of any fighter I’ve ever worked with and I know that he comes prepared," said Zamora, who believes the time they spend together preparing for fights is the key to their success. "That’s one of the things that we knew we were confident in winning that title because we could keep up with Agbeko’s output of punches. And I knew Yonnhy could throw more and he was just a lot more stronger than Agbeko."

The Ghanaian had come into that fight brimming with confidence but early on, he was given a rather harsh wake-up call. Zamora recalls, "I don’t know if it was the second or third round but Yonnhy landed a left hook and a right hand and I mean, it looked like Agbeko’s eyes just went wide open, like, ’Whoa, I’m in a war.’ And personally, all the talk he was doing before, I think he was overlooking Yonnhy, didn’t take him serious."

With that in mind, they expect a better version of Agbeko, one that will not underestimate the task at hand this time around.

"We know that," said Zamora. "We were so hungry to get the title; he’s going to come more hungry coming off that loss and not expecting Yonnhy to be so strong. He’s going to prepare better. We expect that but we don’t think there’s anything Agbeko can do to beat Perez."

While the risk of complacency is there for almost every fighter, Perez, who comes from abject poverty in Colombia, fights not only for himself but every single one of his family members back home. (Check Video on the Left) The same Yonnhy Perez that came to America is the same Yonnhy Perez that wears the IBF belt around his waist.

"He has not changed from day one that he walked in; he never changed his residence. He still lives with his mom; he never wanted to upgrade- even when he went back to Colombia. It was like, ’Hey, Yonnhy, you’re making a little more money; you want to move out of the area?’ I mean, there’s not an area in the United States that can be worse than that. He said, ’I will not leave my neighborhood."

Perez’s work ethic is so ingrained that he wakes up early, even by fighters’ standards, to do his roadwork.

"Four o’clock in the morning he gets up," said Zamora. "If he doesn’t run by 4:30, 5:00, he won’t run. His day is shot. He’s gotta get up at four in the morning." And anyone who wants to get in the ring and move with him better come prepared. "We bring different sparring guys all the time. We’ve brought in top prospects that are now fighting for other promoters, even our own promoter [Thompson Boxing Promotions] and they’re just like, ’Man, it’s just like watching him in a fight.’ It’s the same way in sparring. He works with the guys; he doesn’t hit hard but the output, guys are just like, ’Yeah, we’ll come and give you six rounds.’ Three rounds and they’re, ’That’s it.’"

Perez has made his American home in Santa Fe Springs, a nice, quiet middle-class city that is about 20 miles from Los Angeles.

"Still at the same place and we’ll always be here," said Zamora, of the facility that is just blocks from his own home and is situated between two schools. "This is our home. I’ve been here since 1981, when I used to fight and I took over the program as a trainer. This is our home; this is where we’ll always train."

So now we have the second edition of Perez-Agbeko and this time the stakes are even higher, as the victor faces the winner of the bout between Abner Mares and Vic Darchinyan next year.

"I think we all expect another great fight on the second one," said his manager, Frank Espinoza. "I think Agbeko had taken Yonnhy lightly but I think now he’s up for the challenge and I know Yonnhy is in the best shape as possible. He’ll be ready for Agbeko." According to Espinoza, his client never once balked at facing Agbeko again. That simply isn’t in his DNA. “Absolutely, that’s the way he is. He wants to fight the best. He’s a world champion; he knows by fighting the best he’ll be respected as a great fighter."

A Colombian bantamweight will never be a wildly popular fighter in the States but this much is clear, among the hard-core fight fan, Perez is one that is universally respected for what he represents and the type of fights he invariably finds himself in, time and time again.

Perez-Agbeko II should be another pitched battle.

"I know Agbeko’s going to come hungry after his losing title last year and I know as a champion, I’ve got to be more prepared, stronger and Agbeko’s going to come in the way I came in. The guy’s trying to get the title," said the 31-year-old Perez.

"But I’m ready; I just expect a great fight out of this."


It was interesting that Perez took on Espinoza- who also manages Mares, along with prospects Ronny Rios, Luis Ramos, Antonio Orozco and Carlos Molina- after he had won the title. The conventional wisdom is that a fighter who has already traveled the long road to this juncture shouldn’t give up a percentage to a new manager at that point.

According to Zamora, they couldn’t afford to go on without one like Espinoza.

"I mean, in talking to Yonnhy, it’s a peace of mind for him. Not worrying about certain things, Frank’s been taking care of everything that we need. It’s a peace of mind and just knowing someone who has experience and has been around for so long and get Yonnhy what he deserves."

Just as important as negotiating the best deal for the boxer, it’s really the little things that also matter just as much. Zamora explains, "It’s everything; Frank comes and sees if he needs vitamins, taking him to go eat on certain days to make sure he’s got the right meal. The little things you would not think of. It just made everything so much better for him."

Such issues like making sure that the fighter’s trunks and uniforms are taken care of, believe it or not, can weigh on a boxer the week of a fight. That was just a myriad of small things that plagued Perez prior to his May contest with Mares.

"It was just a mess, mentally," said Zamora, shaking his head. "We’re running around doing stuff; things came up that messed up his head. Just issues that we had, just everything. It was a horrible camp. You count camp from the day it starts to the day of the fight and I can say that that last week was just horrible."

Heading toward Tacoma, Zamora said it was smooth sailing, "Mentally, this is the strongest I’ve seen him. I mean, it’s a new Yonnhy. The same hunger but we’re not worrying about getting our uniforms ready or getting this ready. Just simple stuff."


The bout between welterweights Randall Bailey and Said Ouali had a rather bizarre ending in Belgium on Friday. After scoring a knockdown in each of the first two frames, Bailey seem to hoist (or at least help the process) of Ouali getting out of the ring (Click YouTube video on the Left). This fight was ruled a “no-contest.” After watching this, Lou DiBella called to say he is dropping his indignation and there will be no protest...Anyone else stunned that Joan Guzman, once again, didn’t make weight for his fight? Maybe he’s trying to land a fight with Sergio Martinez?...I think Cameron Newton is a lock to win the Heisman Trophy but if you had to start a pro franchise, do you take him or Stanford’s, Andrew Luck?....

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