By Jake Donovan
Eloy Perez could have taken the high road. He could’ve claimed to have not yet seen Adrien Broner’s third round knockout win of Vicente Rodriguez, or he could’ve dismissed the fight as a mismatch that had no business serving as a vacant title fight.
But the unbeaten super featherweight contender did watch Broner in action over the weekend. He doesn’t dismiss the significance of the bout or what Broner was able to achieve.
That’s because disrespect isn’t in Perez’ DNA.
“I’m happy he won the title. It’s everyone’s dream and he’s living that dream right now,” Perez said after witnessing Broner handle Rodriguez with ease this past Saturday in his hometown of Cincinnati. The win netted the 22-year old his first major title, one that was made available when original opponent Ricky Burns vacated in favor of a move to the lightweight division.
Perez was tabbed as next in line and a fight was negotiated with Broner, who apparently was going to receive the HBO slot no matter who stood in the other corner. The network’s interest was never limited to the idea of matching together two unbeaten contenders, but instead showcasing a future star.
It was a lesson learned when Perez’ handlers rejected the offer to travel to Broner’s hometown. Rather than a new fight being sought, HBO remained in the Broner business, securing the services of Rodriguez for his first title shot.
As hard as it was to watch someone else fight for an opportunity that he believed should have been his own, Perez understood why it was Broner up there and why he wasn’t standing on the other side of the ring.
“We wanted fair compensation for traveling to Cincinnati,” Perez recalls of the failed negotiations. “He’d want the same if asked to come to Salinas, where I’m a big draw. There’s nothing I could do about it. He got the shot and I’m happy for him that he won. I’ll be even happier if I’m next in line.”
While a showdown with Broner was in pursuit by Team Perez, promoter Golden Boy Promotions decided to take the West Coast fighter in a different direction – or so it was suggested.
Instead, Perez was given a slot on Telefutura – where he has been regularly showcased – in late October for what will serve as his last fight of 2011. Perez won handily against journeyman Ira Terry, but in a fight that doesn’t really do much for his career advancement.
What he hopes 2012 will bring are such opportunities where the upside matches his potential.
“I don’t want any more fights that lead to just another fight. I’m sure Broner will want an optional fight for his first title defense, to help build up his name some more, and that’s fine. I’m realistic, and know he won’t look at me for his first defense. But after that, I want my title shot.”
Until then, all Perez can do is sit back and watch another fighter celebrate the biggest moment of his career. Winning a title is what every fighter dreams of. How that success is handled is what separates most fighters.
This is where Perez is further motivated to get Broner into the ring.
“The cockiness – I guess he’s too cool for school,” Perez comments of Broner’s confident demeanor, which many view as unnecessary arrogance. “He just won the title, have a little bit more class. The key to success that I’ve learned is humbleness. When you get too far from it, you lose yourself. Maybe that helps him get through it, though. He just thinks he’s too cool.
“Don’t try to be cool, just be cool. “
All Perez is trying to be is a fighter able to prove he’s capable of performing at the sport’s highest level. He’s already shown himself to be a class act, as evidenced by his support of 9-year old cancer patient Sy Sherman.
It was a year ago when Sherman was diagnosed with liver cancer. Due to the rarity of his specific condition – Hepatocellular Carcinoma – in the United States, young Sy is forced to travel well over an hour from his Salinas (CA) hometown to Stanford University in order to receive proper treatment.
When he returns home, there is always something to look forward to – specifically his being afforded the opportunity to help in the gym where Perez trains. The 9-year old has also become a de facto entourage member by carrying Perez’ regional titles into the ring on fight night.
The dream they both have is for Sherman to one day carry Perez’ first world title, though for now they settle for his remaining as healthy as his condition will allow.
“The kid is strong; he’s a true fighter,” Perez says of the inspiration he is given by watching Sherman fight to get better. “He comes into the gym smiling all of the time. His story is one that needs major attention, not the details of how a father brushes his son’s hair.”
The latter is a reference to Broner’s in-ring ritual, be it during pre-fight introductions or – as was the case last Saturday – just prior to his post-fight interview.
The antic, along with Broner’s confident swagger, has rubbed many people the wrong way, but Perez sees it a bit different. As Muhammad Ali famously said during his day, it ain’t bragging if it’s true. Broner’s arrogance doesn’t have to be liked, but the results have to be accepted.
“Adrien Broner is undefeated and a world champion, winning the belt in his hometown. He’s backing up his talk. I’m not a world champion yet, so it’s enough to shut me up. He is the way he is. I can’t take that away from him… I just want the chance to take the title away from him, though.”
If and when negotiations resume, Perez is fully prepared to go all in to ensure that the fight happens. While he would love his own opportunity at a hometown showcase for his first title shot, getting the fight takes precedence to where it will be staged.
“It doesn’t matter to me where the fight lands. ‘And the new…’ sounds the same no matter where you are fighting.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].