By Ryan Maquiñana
At the press conference for unbeaten junior lightweight Eloy “The Prince” Perez’s upcoming Sept. 2 NABO title defense against Daniel “Azuquita” Jimenez, the mood was celebratory.
After all, not only was the 24-year-old Perez (21-0-2, 5 KOs) returning to his current residence of Salinas, Calif., but promoter Don Chargin was also commemorating the 60th anniversary of his very first fight card.
“I’m happy to be fighting at the Salinas Sports Complex in front of my adopted hometown,” said Perez, who is originally from Rochester, Wa. “It’s great to bring this fight to the fans and something positive to the city of Salinas.”
“I’m really excited about this fight,” said Chargin of the ten-rounder that will be televised on TeleFutura’s Solo Boxeo Tecate. “I actually promoted the fight when Jimenez upset [Vicente] Escobedo in Sacramento. Eloy’s at the point where you got to step up, and he’s fired up and in real good shape.”
Jimenez (20-3-1, 12 KOs), a 30-year-old from San Juan, P.R., once held the same NABO belt five years ago, but hit a snag in his career soon after, losing back-to-back bouts to former world champions Roman Martinez and Jesus Chavez. He has since rebounded, winning three in a row including a fifth-round stoppage of Miguel Angel Munguia in February.
“He’s fought a lot of good fighters and lost to two world champs,” Perez said of his opponent. “I want to dominate Jimenez and show everyone that I belong with the elite fighters in the division.”
“This is definitely history in the making,” said Sam Garcia, Perez’s assistant trainer. “We’ve been waiting to come back here and Eloy’s ready to make moves in the division.”
Currently ranked No. 4 in the WBO 130-pound rankings after a stint in the top contender spot, Perez hopes that an impressive victory here will send him back up the ladder. Despite “The Prince” remaining undefeated, fellow Golden Boy stablemate Adrien Broner leapfrogged him in the rankings and will likely get a coveted title shot at Scotland’s Ricky Burns.
“I’d like to fight for a world title, but I’m not worried about whoever Broner is fighting,” Perez said. “I’m focused on Sept. 3, and Jimenez is going make me look good. I’m going to give the fans a show.”
In the co-feature, super middleweight prospect James Parison (14-1, 4 KOs) of San Diego takes on Paul Mendez of Walnut Creek, Calif. (6-1, 2 KOs).
“This is the first time’s anyone’s asked for James,” said Chargin of Parison, whose lone loss was a decision to Craig McEwan in 2009. “Not too many people want to fight him because he has a tough style, but Paul does. Paul’s been sparring Andre Berto up north and I’ve been hearing that he’s getting some good work in.”
A trio of hot junior featherweight prospects from California will also see action. Fairfield native and Golden Boy signee Manuel Avila (5-0, 2 KOs) fights Ruben Calderon of Kansas City, while fellow 122-pounders Roman Morales (6-0, 4 KOs) of San Ardo and Bruno Escalante (3-0-1, 2 KOs) of San Carlos take on the dreaded TBD in separate bouts.
“About 75 to 100 people will come to support me from home, and it makes you much less nervous,” Morales, a Gary Shaw-promoted fighter, said. “But once you’re up there in the ring, you forget about the noise…I hope to win here and then fight in an eight-rounder by the end of the year.”
“I’ve been sparring with a Glenn Donaire and a couple others for this fight,” Escalante said. “I’m feeling good and ready to go.”
Highly touted amateur Rudy Puga Jr. will make his pro debut in front of his hometown fans against an opponent yet to be determined. Puga went 89-10, earning numerous accolades along the way including a spot with the USA Boxing national team, where he fought overseas in places as far as Azerbaijan.
Puga, who shares manager Kathy Garcia with Perez, takes off the headgear and singlet while trading his gloves for a pair of lighter ones.
“This first fight’s going to be at 165 pounds, and I want to make a great first impression,” Puga said. “I have a pro style and I’m ready to figure out how tough the pros can be.”
Seeing the excitement in Salinas has brought a smile to Chargin’s face in the twilight of his career.
“The past year and a half has been tough since I lost my wife Lorraine,” said the Hall of Fame promoter known for his “war-a-week” persona. “It was tough even making the drive from Cambria to here. Even at our age, we’d get a kick out of going to fights, and it makes me miss her more. But I know she’d want me to keep doing this. I’ve been going nuts by myself around the house, so I had to get back and be more active in the game. It’s great to be back.”