By Jake Donovan
All parties were in town in St. Louis last Friday, braving a winter storm and frigid temperatures to hype up a February 25 boxing card at the Scottrade Center. HBO will be in the house to air a live doubleheader, featuring the city’s own Devon Alexander against Marcos Maidana in the main event.
Judging by the press conference, you’d think that newly crowned 130 lb. titlist Adrien Broner was the headline attraction. The undefeated Cincinnati native spoke – and spoke, and spoke – to the press on hand, obviously excited ahead of the first defense of his title when he takes on unbeaten Eloy Perez.
Broner is regarded by many as one of the more promising young talents in the sport today, a fact the fighter is well aware of and not afraid to share with others. His reputation is beginning to precede him, a fact not lost on Perez as he grabbed the mic to share a few words before his opponent decided to turn the afternoon into the Adrien Broner show.
“I’m just glad I had a chance to speak before the circus started going,” Perez joked to Boxingscene.com after the media session. “If he likes talking, more power to him.”
St. Louis’ own Dizzy Dean famously coined the phrase “It ain’t braggin’ if ya can back it up” during his heyday with the St. Louis Cardinals way back in the 1930’s. So far, Broner (22-0, 18KO) has every reason to speak with confidence.
The 22-year old is coming off of a vacant title winning effort in his Cincinnati backyard, knocking out Vicente Rodriguez in the third round of their HBO-televised affair. Next month’s showdown with Perez (23-0-2, 7KO) will mark his fourth appearance on the network inside of 12 months, this in an era where premium televised dates are supposed to be hard to come by.
Perez had every opportunity to make his debut on the very November show that crowned Broner a 130 lb. king (or at least a titlist), but declined on the invitation. The timing wasn’t right for his team, nor was he in a hurry to travel to his opponent’s hometown.
Thus, Broner gets to brag a little louder, though perhaps for only one month longer.
“If he likes to talk, then more power to him,” Perez states, with an inflection that suggests he’d rather move his fists than flap his gums. “But you know what? He’s a world champion. He hasn’t lost. I can’t rip him; he deserves that credit.”
“I will be the best he’s ever faced,” Perez insists, acknowledging the reverse is also true. “This is a big step up for me, but a shot at the world title is supposed to be a big step up. He did what he had to do against Rodriguez, but now he has a real challenge. February 25 will be my night.”
Perez didn’t have the same breakthrough campaign that Broner enjoyed in 2011, but his patience still paid off. The Washington native – who now lives in San Francisco’s Bay Area – won four times last year, all of which aired live on Telefutura. Most notable among the lot was his 2nd round knockout of Daniel Jimenez last September, a highlight reel moment in what was supposed to be a stern test.
The 25-year old realizes just how much higher the stakes are in this fight, just as he vividly recalls the steps in and out the ring that led to this opportunity.
“I appreciate fighting for the title on HBO. Some make it to a point but don’t make it to the title because they get sidetracked. I take it serious. It’s not about money or fame for me, but about ambition.
“I want my Dad (Eloy Perez Sr.) to be remembered. He sacrificed a lot for me – for our family – moving us from Mexico to Washington for a better life. He gave me his name and I know he would be so honored by my becoming world champion.”
Of course, a dollar and a dream only go so far. Eventually, you have to earn that reward. Perez believes to be ready, even in the face of allowing Broner to dominate buildup. It’s not whose name they know on the way to the ring, but whose name they chant as the fighters leave that matters.
“2012 is going to be a great year for me,” Perez boldly predicts. “It all begins with taking the title in St. Louis. It’s a great sports town and a lot of champions have come through this city. I’m coming in as a challenger, but leaving St. Louis as a world champion. Adrien has no idea what’s coming on Feb. 25. Trust me, he will never know what hit him.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]