By Jake Donovan
Mike Perez turned a lot of heads during his HBO debut last November, thrilling the crowd in his 10-round win over Magomed Abdulsalamov last November. While the tragic post-fight fate of Abdulsalamov – who was medically induced into a coma in order to have emergency brain surgery performed – naturally overshadowed the fight itself, it was up to Perez to continue on with the present.
The Cuban transplant who now calls Ireland home was brought back to HBO’s airwaves last weekend, albeit in a less impressive performance as he was held to a 10-round draw versus Carlos Takam. The bout served as a primer to Jean Pascal’s eventual 12-round win over Lucian Bute in Montreal, Canada.
Perez suffered a cut from an accidental headbutt in the third round and never seemed to recover. Most considered him fortunate to escape Canada with a draw, while questions remain unanswered as to whether or not he was able to put behind him the grim details of the fight with Magomed.
“It wasn't what we expected, but at the same time have to give Takam a lot of credit,” admits Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, who promotes Perez. “We were looking to continue to test Mike and that's what this fight gave. After the headbutt, he complained of blurred vision and it clearly affected his performance. To be honest, we’re still not sure whether or not he is mentally past what took place in his fight with Abdulsalamov.”
Heading into the January 18 co-feature bout, Perez dedicated the fight to his fallen opponent, even wearing Abdulsalamov’s name on his trunks. The gesture was supposed to serve as motivation, but instead served as the conversation centerpiece with every interviewer who encountered the unbeaten heavyweight.
“One thing he didn’t anticipate was the intensity of fight week,” Loeffler believes. “It's one thing to dedicate the fight to Magomed and wear his name on his trunks. But to be constantly reminded of it during every interview, I'm not sure he was prepared for that.”
The fight took place barely 2 ˝ months following the win over Abdulsalamov, but it remains uncertain how soon we will next see him in the ring.
The goal remains to move him towards title contention, whether in-house, as K2 Promotions’ most notable client is lineal World heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, or positioning him to fight whoever winds up with the currently vacant WBC title. It’s just a question of how soon his handlers elect to get him back on that track.
“There are two trains of thought with a fight like last Saturday; you either take a fight quickly and get past it – like we did – or you take some time off,” Loeffler explains in the strategy behind Perez fighting when he did. “We took the fight and with the cut, Mike is now almost forced to take some time off. It’s not an ideal situation, but he was able to return to the ring and on HBO, and can now rest while preparing for his future in the division.
“Mike's rated #5 in the WBC. That's the direction we were looking for him and those plans haven’t changed. We wanted him to step in and fight for that title once it’s filled and the mandatories are out of the way.”
Whenever Perez returns to the ring, it will most likely come against an opponent who – with a win – will put him in the best position to eventually challenge for a title. Whomever that opponent is doesn’t matter; what matters is that it’s against a fighter who continues to challenge the heavyweight and prepares him for the championship stage, as was the case versus Takam.
“Mike is someone like Gennady Golovkin (the unbeaten middleweight titlist also promoted by K2 Promotions) who doesn’t turn down opportunities. Samson had a hard time matching fighters with Magomed. It was unfortunate to have their fight overshadowed by the injuries, and we continue to wish Magomed well and his family to remain strong.
“As for our guy, we have confidence in Mike against anyone in the world. Whether it’s Bryant Jennings (who faces Artur Szpilka on Saturday in New York City on HBO), Andy Ruiz or Deontay Wilder, we won’t shy away from any challenge or any heavyweight that puts us in title contention (with a win).”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox Tags: Mike Perez , Magomed Abdusalamov , Carlos Takam , Perez-Takam , Perez vs. Takam