Unless you live in Southern California you might not be familiar with Colombia’s Yonnhy Perez, even if you’re Colombian.
You see Perez has lived and fought in the sunny state for most of his professional career and was discovered by Thompson Boxing Promotions, a small outfit with a penchant for picking out talent.
Perez is part of the small boxing company that also has WBO junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley along with three other top notch 140-pounders named Patrick Lopez, Josesito Lopez and Mauricio Herrera. Those last three names are fighters who can deal with any of the current junior welterweight titleholders.
So far all of Thompson’s fighters are willing to go anywhere to fight anybody.
A few months ago Perez traveled to South Africa to challenge hometown hero Silence Mabuza for the interim bantamweight title in the high altitude city of Johannesburg. Few believed he had a chance.
Nevertheless Perez and his Thompson Boxing crew jumped in a cab to head toward the arena on fight night. During the ride the taxi driver pulled a Robert DeNiro and drove the team around and around like some crazy man until there was less than an hour before the fight was to begin.
“Yonnhy never said a thing as we kept telling the driver we’re going the wrong way,” said Alex Camponovo who rode with Perez that day to the arena. “By the time we got to the arena he only had 40 minutes to get ready. He couldn’t even warm up.”
No problem. That night Perez astonished the boxing world by knocking out the speedy Mabuza in the 12th and final round to capture the interim title. He was behind on points and needed to win by knockout.
“What I remember is in the 12th round it was a very difficult and close fight. I knew I had one opportunity and I asked God to help me and give me strength,” said Perez, who is Colombian but trains in Santa Fe Springs, CA. “I remembered my kids back in Colombia and all the needs I had. I went out there with all my faith.”
Perez’s (19-0, 14 KOs) knockout win shot him to the top and now the soft-spoken fighter meets IBF bantamweight titleholder Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko (27-1, 22 KOs) at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday Oct. 31. The fight will be televised on Showtime.
Exiled in Bronx
King Kong is legally Agbeko’s middle name and he is not soft-spoken.
“My dad gave me the name King Kong. It always pushed me to street fight,” said Agbeko who is from Ghana. “The way from back home to here but by the grace of God I made it.”
Agbeko, like Perez, left family behind to train in this country. The fighter from Ghana with the fast hands is self-exiled and trains in the Bronx, New York. Wins over Luis Perez and Vic Darchinyan have placed him on the verge of stardom.
“Darchinyan is a very, very big name and he always knocked out everybody. It put me in the light,” said Agbeko while in Santa Fe Springs on Friday afternoon. “My dream is to become a unified champion and I want to be a pound for pound champion in my career.”
The petulant Agbeko can chat up a storm and has that rare ability to boast while not seeming arrogant.
“They called Darchinyan the Raging Bull, he was the raging bull(talker),” said Agbeko about his last opponent. “Yonnhy is the best contender for my title and I’m the only person that can beat him.”
Perez, though mostly quiet, said he’s fought many African fighters in his career and knows what to expect from them, including the talk.
“I’ve traveled to Africa and I know they can talk more than they can do in the ring and all that can do is make them fall right on their face,” said Perez in his always serious tone. “Agbeko said he’s going to KO me and that’s fine he said that, but I have the same opportunity too.”
Agbeko has lots of strategies
Perez’s trainer Danny Zamora expects the clash for the world title to be the most difficult they’ve experienced.
“Agbeko throws a lot of punches but Yonnhy has power,” said Zamora.
The champion’s trainer Adama Eddy said there is no single strategy to fight Perez.
“We have a lot of strategies. I need to think about this fight,” Eddy said.
Though Colombia’s Perez speaks very little English, he’s accumulated thousands of fans in Southern California who have seen him in Santa Fe Springs, Corona and Ontario the past three years. It will be his first fight in Las Vegas.
“I could never have imagined I would be fighting in Las Vegas,” said Perez, adding that it was a goal to fight in the new boxing capital. “Now my dream is going to be a reality.”
King Kong says he’s looking forward to eliminating all of the contenders and pretenders so that he can reach his goal.
“I’m going to be a pound for pound champion,” Agbeko says.
Saturday night should be a heavy test for the champion from Ghana.
De Marco and Alfaro on card
Also on the card will be Mexico’s Antonio De Marco fighting former lightweight world champion Jose Alfaro of Nicaragua for the interim WBC title on the boxing event sponsored by Don King Promotions, Gary Shaw Productions and Thompson Boxing Promotions.
Fights on television
Fri. pay-per-view, 7 p.m., Hector Camacho Jr. (49-3-1) vs. Yory Boy Campas (92-14-1).
Sat. Showtime, 9 p.m., Joseph Agbeko (27-1) vs. Yonnhy Perez (19-0).