By Jake Donovan
Marco Antonio Periban's name was floated just a few months ago as a potential candidate to have faced Andre Ward earlier this year. The fight was declined by his team, opting to move in a different direction with his career.
The decision nearly proved costly, as Periban had to dig deep to turn away the challenge of unbeaten but untested German Rafael in their non-title fight Saturday evening in Mexico City.
Scores were 76-76 even and 79-73 and 78-74 in favor of Periban, who closed strong to preserve the win.
Periban was believed to be eyeing another run in the super middleweight division, where he previously came up just short in a 2013 vacant title bid versus Sakio Bika. However, each of his past two starts have now taken place at light heavweight, the latest coming in a clash of 31-year old boxers based in Mexico City.
Rafael - an Argentine southpaw who has spent the majority of his career in Mexico since turning pro in 2013 - came out firing in the opening round, while Periban looked like a super middleweight still trying to feel his way around the heavier weight class.
The difference in punching power between weights was evident in round two. Periban's body attack would eventually pay dividends, but in the interim was not forcing Rafael to budge.
One of the more telling moments of the fight came in round five, when Periban managed to corner his gangly opponent and go on the attack. A single shot briefly disrupted the rally, catching a right hand to the chin that stopped him in his tracks but didn't prevent an ensuing rally.
Action was fierce down the stretch, as Periban - after six rounds of trying to break down his opponent with a vicious body attack - was forced to catch his breath and regroup for a strong finish. It not only let Rafael off the hook but back into the fight as he was able to rally hard and threaten to pull off the upset.
Periban put an end to that dream with a strong finish in the 8th and final round to hand Rafael (10-1, 6KOs) his first career defeat. The former super middleweight contender is now 25-3-1 (16KOs), having won five straight following a disastrous four-fight stretch that saw him go two years between victories (0-3-1 over that period).
The bout aired live on Televisa in Mexico, as well as on the World Boxing Council's (WBC) free-and-legal livestream website.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2