The image of Yonnhy Perez breaking down in tears during an interview before his rematch with Joseph Agbeko in December is indelibly etched in our memories.
The sensitive boxer from Colombia, who spends much of the year living and training in Southern California, missed his family back home to such a degree that his emotions overwhelmed him. To make matters worse, he lost to a fighter he had beaten a year earlier. He had never lost before.
To say that Perez was unhappy at that time would be an understatement.
Four months later, though, he has a renewed spirit as he prepares to face Vic Darchinyan on Saturday at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. This time, he conducted the bulk of his camp with his wife and children by his side in Colombia. And he uses the loss as a source of motivation.
“Honestly it was the best therapy for me,” Perez said through a translator, referring to being with his family. “You can see it in my face. I’m happy. And I’m so pumped to fight again. It meant everything to go back there and see my family.
“It’s up to you to decide how I look in the fight. For me, though, it has made a world of difference.”
Perez (20-1-1, 14 knockouts) had no excuses for the loss to Agbeko, who was less aggressive than he had been in their first meeting and outboxed Perez.
The former bantamweight titleholder gave Agbeko credit and summarized the experience very simply: “I just lost.”
Just losing was very painful.
“It was such a bitter pill to swallow for me,” Perez said. “I was depressed. I didn’t know what to do with my career or personal life. It was very, very difficult. Then I got motivation from my family and friends and people working with me.
“Eventually I realized that great champions aren’t always the ones that remain undefeated. Great champions come back from a loss and prove themselves.”
That probably won’t be easy against Darchinyan, a former two-division (flyweight and junior bantamweight) titleholder who has a very awkward style and world-class power in both hands.
Darchinyan has boasted that he’ll knock out Perez, which would put to rest speculation that he isn’t the fighter at 118 pounds that he was at 112 or 115. He lost decisions to Agbeko and Mares in his two biggest bantamweight fights.
Perez, who turned pro in 2005, has been around long enough not to be fazed by such talk. He even dished a little back on Thursday.
“I understand him,” Perez said. “I know who he is. Vic Darchinyan has a big mouth, he’s always had a big mouth. That’s how he sells himself. He gets the crowd going not only with his words but also by the way he fights. It doesn’t bother me.”
And the reason Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KOs) lost to both Agbeko and Mares.
“It’s not about weight,” Perez said. “A lot of eople get it wrong. He found his limit when he faced two better fighters than him. That’s the main reason. Everybody has to lose some time.”
Perez believes Darchinyan is about to lose a third big bantamweight fight, particularly because the Colombian has never felt better – physically and emotionally.
“I’ve prepared myself hard,” he said. “I’m ready for whatever he wants to bring.”