By Keith Idec
Bernard Hopkins told Michael Perez afterward that if he didn’t get knocked down toward the very end of his 10-round lightweight fight Friday night he would’ve won a unanimous decision.
Perez, of Newark, N.J., actually would’ve won a majority decision had Fidel Maldonado Jr. not dropped him late in their tight fight. The 2008 National Golden Gloves champion instead settled for a split-decision victory over Maldonado in the opener of a “ShoBox: The New Generation” doubleheader from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.
The 22-year-old Perez won 97-92 and 95-94 on two scorecards, but lost 95-94 on the third card.
A win is a win, obviously, but the hard truth is Perez never should’ve allowed Maldonado out of the fourth round. Maldonado (13-2, 11 KOs), of Albuquerque, N.M., was all but begging for Perez to stop him, but Perez inexplicably allowed a disoriented Maldonado off the hook.
Conditioning seemingly slowed Perez (17-1-1, 10 KOs) during the ensuing rounds. The Golden Boy-promoted prospect said he hurt both of his hands in this entertaining fight, but his inability to finish Maldonado, who lost by first-round TKO in his previous fight to lightly regarded Fernando Carcamo (10-4, 7 KOs), raises red flags about the talented boxer-puncher’s ability to transition from prospect to legitimate lightweight contender.
He is a boxer who tries to bang out like a pure puncher, despite that Perez clearly is at his best when he uses his jab, fights from a comfortable distance and digs to the body. His six-round TKO loss to up-and-coming Omar Figueroa (19-0-1, 15 KOs) in another “ShoBox” co-feature Jan. 6 in Indio should’ve taught Perez those lessons.
He reverted back to his Figueroa form at times Friday night, even though Perez felt he won the fight pretty easily.
“Except for the last minute I thought I’d totally out-boxed him and won every round,” Perez said, “even though I hurt my left hand in the third or fourth round and my right hand a little after that.
“The knockdown was more of a flash knockdown than anything else. I was always aware of what was happening.”
The 21-year-old Maldonado, a southpaw who also lost to Perez as an amateur, disagreed, yet also conveniently omitted the trouble he encountered in a completely one-sided fourth round.
“I felt I’d done enough to win, even without the knockdown,” Maldonado said. “I know I hurt Perez throughout and he never hurt me once. His punches had nothing behind them. This decision was total bull. The only rounds I felt I lost were the ones I gave away when I was playing possum, trying to get him to come in and exchange.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.