By Keith Idec
When Michael Perez perused Omar Figueroa’s record, he noticed that the undefeated lightweight has been matched pretty carefully.
Perez also recognized that the only opponent on it with a respectable record, Las Vegas’ Arturo Quintero (15-4-1, 9 KOs), fought Figueroa to an eight-round draw. The 21-year-old Perez, however, has stopped more experienced opponents in two of his last three fights and has won four straight bouts by technical knockout since making an eight-rounder against Jose Hernandez unnecessarily difficult nearly 13 months ago.
Those are among the reasons the prospect from Newark, N.J., is very confident entering his 10-round fight against Figueroa on Friday night in Indio, Calif. (11 p.m. ET/PT; Showtime).
“I’ve seen him on TV a few times, fighting on the Spanish channel, Telefutura,” Perez said. “He hasn’t fought the same opposition I’ve fought. To me, I’m going to be his toughest test to date. I hope he’s ready. I’m ready. I can’t wait.”
Perez (15-0-1, 9 KOs), who’s handled by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, has shown improvement since settling for a split-decision win against Hernandez (11-5-1, 5 KOs) in Puerto Rico, where Golden Boy has tried to build the Puerto Rican-born Perez into an attraction. He has become more effective defensively and has learned the importance of body punching.
Aroz Gist, Perez’s trainer, was especially encouraged by how Perez fared against Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia, the junior welterweight contender Perez was helping getting ready for his fight against Erik Morales before it was postponed.
“We’re making a lot of improvements, and he is getting better,” said Gist, who also has trained former WBO junior welterweight champion Kendall Holt and junior middleweight contender Pawel Wolak. “He’s only 21, and he turned pro at 18. But he is coming along and he’s getting stronger. Against a guy like Danny Garcia, I was really impressed. Danny Garcia is no pushover, so I was really impressed with what he was giving Danny Garcia for seven, eight rounds straight. I was like, ‘Wow!’ Danny Garcia even said, ‘He’s stronger than what he looks.’ ”
Perez and the 22-year-old Figueroa (13-0-1, 10 KOs), of Wasleco, Texas, will fight for the WBO’s Youth lightweight title in this “ShoBox: The New Generation” co-feature. The winner will be ranked in the top 15 of the WBO’s 135-pound rankings, which would help Perez transition from prospect to contender status.
“It’s all about progressing and moving forward in my career,” said Perez, who stopped veteran Tyrone Harris (24-9, 16 KOs) in the second round of his last fight, Oct. 14 in Juncos, Puerto Rico. “So hopefully after this fight doors will be open for me. I’m going to take it one fight at a time, but hopefully I’ll get a title fight by the end of the year. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Regardless, Perez is pleased with how his career has progressed since making his pro debut while he was still a senior at Newark’s Central High School in October 2008.
“The way they’ve matched me I think is the perfect way to go for an up-and-coming prospect like myself,” Perez said. “I’m proud of how Golden Boy’s moving me. I’ve learned a lot out of all the fights. I haven’t fought really no slouches. I’ve fought mainly veterans and hard opposition, so I think I’m real nice and polished for this fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.