By Jake Donovan
It’s been a busy week for news, be it big stories, no-shows or false alarms. Sneaking into the headlines on Wednesday afternoon was the announcement of former bantamweight titlist Yonnhy Perez electing to call it a career at age 33 after just six active years into the sport.
The news was first revealed on the Twitter account of Frankie Espinoza Jr, whose father Frank Sr. guided Perez’ career.
“Former bantamweight World Champion Yonnhy Perez has decided to retire from boxing,” read Espinoza Jr’s tweet. The message followed updates on another bantamweight in his stable, current unbeaten star Abner Mares who was in the gym preparing for an April 21 bout with Eric Morel.
Mares and Perez met for the bantamweight belt back in May ’10. Perez was making the first defense of the belt he won seven months prior from Joseph King Kong Agbeko, while Mares was making his first run at a title of any kind. The two were good friends going in, but waged war for 12 rounds only to fight to a stalemate.
The bout marked the last time Perez would leave the ring with his unbeaten record still intact, though while also beginning the first leg of a three-fight winless streak. Back-to-back lopsided losses followed, first conceding his crown to Agbeko in their Dec. ’10 rematch and then being manhandled by former titlist Vic Darchinyan four months later in their cut-shortened bout.
Perez hadn’t fought since that fight, which will be a year come April. Rather than take the slow road back to title contention, the humble Colombian warrior simply decided to walk away altogether.
“It a tough decision for me. But I feel it's the right one to make,” Perez told Boxingscene.com late Wednesday evening, leaving the game with a mark of 20-2-1 (14KO). “I have given so much to boxing and I am grateful. But I no longer have that desire to fight on anymore."
“In boxing if you don't give it your all you can get hurt. So with that said, I am announcing my retirement.”
The writing was on the wall as far back as his rematch with Agbeko late in 2010. The bout served as the main event of a bantamweight doubleheader marketed as the opening round of the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament. Perez was favored to repeat his success from a year prior, but those closest to him expressed genuine concern over his mental state.
“[N]ot to take anything away from Agbeko or make excuses for why Yonnhy lost – but he didn’t look the same in the fight that night,” commented Mares days after the Dec. ’10 fight. “He seemed disoriented. From the fighters meeting when he was crying because he missed his family – he wanted to get this over with. He’s had a tough run and hasn’t been home (to Colombia) since the first Agbeko fight. It’s a lot of tough fights in a row without seeing his family.”
It appeared as if Perez exited his prime almost as quickly as he hit his stride. Beginning with his come-from-behind knockout of Silence Mabuza in May ’09, Perez endured a string of five straight fights against top shelf competition in a span of less than two years. The Mabuza fight took place on the road in South Africa, with the rest of the run being held stateside.
Lost in between were his return visits to his family in Colombia, which he had been doing throughout his career since turning pro in 2005 after an amateur career boasting more than 200 fights. Following the career-defining win over Agbeko, Perez remained stateside – perhaps for far too long as he mentally burnt himself out.
Perez now gets to enjoy all the time he wants back home with those who love him most. In being able to sit back and relax, he also gets to reflect back and honor those who made it possible to provide a better way of life for his family.
"I would like to thank all my fans that supported me throughout the years,” acknowledges Perez. “I also have to thank my promoters Gary Shaw, Thompson Boxing, my trainer Danny Zamora and my manager Frank Espinoza.”
The praise is equally strong in return, as those closest to him appreciate everything he had to offer.
"We are very proud of Yonnhy and what he has accomplished throughout his career,” notes renowned boxing manager Frank Espinoza. “It's never an easy decision for a fighter to hang up his gloves. But Yonnhy will not only be remembered as great champion that gave his all in the ring, but an even greater person! Boxing will miss Yonnhy Perez.”
All Perez asks in the end is that he’s not judged by his last remaining days in the ring, but for his career as a whole – his accomplishments as well as his effort.
"I hope the fans will remember my fights and know I gave it my all for them.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .