JOSEPH AGBEKO vs. YONNHY PEREZ II
Where: Emerald Queen Casino, Tacoma, Wash.
TV: Showtime, 9 p.m. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Weight: Bantamweight (118 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Perez’s IBF bantamweight title
Also on the card: Vic Darchinyan vs. Abner Mares, 12 rounds, bantamweights.
Height / reach: 5-7 (170 cm) / 68 (173 cm)
Hometown: Santa Fe Springs, Calif. (from Cartagena, Colombia)
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 20-0-1, 14 KOs
Trainer: Danny Zamora
The Ring rating: No. 3 bantamweight
Titles: IBF bantamweight (2009-present)
Biggest victories: Joseph Agbeko, Oct. 31, 2009, UD 12 (won title); Silence Mabuza, May 29, 2009, TKO 12 (title eliminator).
Draw: Abner Mares, May 22, 2010, 12 rounds (retains title).
Height / Reach: 5-5½ (166 cm) / 65½ (166cm)
Hometown: Bronx, New York (from Accra, Ghana)
Turned pro: 1998
Record: 27-2 (22 knockouts)
Trainer: Adama Addy
The Ring rating: No. 5 bantamweight
Titles: Bantamweight (2007-2009)
Biggest victories: Luis Alberto Perez, Sept. 29, 2007, TKO 7 (wins title); William Gonzalez, Dec. 11, 2008, MD 12 (retains title); Vic Darchinyan, July 11, 2009, UD 12 (retains title).
Losses: Yonnhy Perez, Oct. 31, 2009, (loses IBF title); Wladimir Sidorenko, May 18, 2004, MD 12
Skills: Despite their high knockout percentages, both Agbeko and Perez are essentially boxers who look to set up their power punches. Perez does so with better technique and fundamentals than Agbeko, who relies more on timing and athleticism to land his shots. Perez, a volume puncher, delivers most of his shots with textbook form. The Colombian also defends well with his high guard.
Power: Both fighters possess heavy hands. Perez’s power comes from his physical strength and technique. Agbeko’s power is more the result of his quick-twitch muscles. The Ghanaian is the more explosive of the two.
Speed and athletic ability: If Perez has a weakness, it’s his lack of speed and mobility. Agbeko, on the other hand, is very strong in this category. His energetic style is complimented by quick reflexes, very good hand speed and excellent hand-eye coordination.
Defense: One of the drawbacks of Agbeko’s aggressive style and athleticism is that he tends to get carried away with his offense, and in doing so, he often leaves himself open to counter punches. When boxing from a distance, Agbeko is able to avoid punches with his upper-body movement. Once he commits to launching his own attack, however, he often lunges forward and into his opponent’s shots. This tendency to lunge forward also often results in headbutts, something his opponents complain about. Perez is a more reserved boxer-puncher. Perez, on the other hand, keeps his hands up and seldom over-commits with his offense. And despite being a volume puncher, the Colombian is very economical, which reduces the opportunity to counter him.
Experience: Agbeko, a 10-year pro, has eight more pro bouts than Perez, a pro for only four years. However, their experience level is very close due to Agbeko’s inactivity (he didn’t fight in 2005 or 2006 and he hasn‘t fought since losing to Perez) and the Colombian titleholder’s extensive amateur career. Agbeko has faced four RING-rated contenders (Wladimir Sidorenko, Luis Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Perez); Perez has faced three slightly higher-ranked (at bantamweight) RING contenders (Silence Mabuza, Agbeko and Abner Mares).
Chin: Both fighters sport solid whiskers. Agbeko’s chin survived the best shots of southpaw sluggers Luis Perez and Darchinyan, is slightly more battle tested. Perez’s chin absorbed the best that Agbeko, Mares and Mabuza could dish out.
Conditioning: Both bantamweights are ultra-dedicated gym rats who literally have to be held back by their trainers in order to prevent them from overtraining. Both have proven the ability to fight hard, fast-paced 12-round bouts, and both have come on strongly in the final rounds of such fights.
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has ever taken a severe beating in the ring, but both push their bodies very hard in training and have absorbed a degree of punishment in their bouts against veterans (Oscar Andrade for Perez; William Gonzalez for Agbeko) and world-class fighters (Mabuza, Agbeko and Mares for Perez; Darchinyan and Perez for Agbeko). The difference in this stat is that Perez has fought three consecutive 12-round wars — against Mabuza, Agbeko and Mares — which has to have taken some toll on his body.
Corner: Both fighters have young, underrated trainers guiding them into Saturday’s fight. Both Agbeko’s trainer, Adama Addy, and Perez’s coach, Danny Zamora, make sure their fighters always show up in tip-top shape (but never over-trained) and are equipped with a solid game plan.
Outcome: Having learned from their first bout that Perez takes a terrific shot and never stops punching back, Agbeko won’t start Saturday’s bout as fast as he did last October. The former titleholder will look to establish his jab, maneuver around Perez and pick his spots to land his big right hand during the early rounds of the bout. Agbeko will have his moments employing this strategy but he will find that Perez possesses a good jab that he will use well from long range. By the middle rounds of the bout Perez will try to walk Agbeko down with his jab and then wear his challenger down with body shots whenever he’s close enough to land them. Agbeko will stand and trade furious shots when Perez is in position to land more than his jab and the fight will quickly heat up to the frenetic pace of the first bout. By the late rounds, Perez will have pulled Agbeko into the kind of close-quarters battle of attrition he relishes and excels at, however, he’ll find that his experienced challenger is up to the task. The two will battle tit-for-tat in the trenches during the championship rounds of the bout with only the accidental clashes of their heads interrupting the rapid-fire exchanges of punches. Agbeko will land the harder single shots, usually his right hand, but Perez will connect with a higher volume of punches, often in combination. The audience in the Emerald Queen Casino theater will stand and applaud their efforts at the conclusion of the hotly contested bout.
Prediction: Perez wins a razor-thin, perhaps majority or split, decision.