LOS ANGELES — Is this it for Yonnhy Perez?
Nobody should write a fighter off after only his second pro loss, especially one as good as Perez, who briefly held the IBF bantamweight belt; and especially when the guy who beat him is former two-division titleholder Vic Darchinyan.
However, the manner in which Perez was repeatedly nailed, wobbled and generally manhandled by Darchinyan on Saturday at Nokia Theatre makes one wonder if the Colombian veteran has already seen his best days.
Perez (20-1-1, 14 knockouts), who is usually a relentless pressure fighter, wasn’t able to get his vaunted volume-punching offense going against Darchinyan. Perez appeared listless as he absorbed flush power shot after power shot from Darchinyan (36-3-1, 27 KOs), who scored a second-round knockdown, and pushed him back on the Colombian back on his heels for much of the fight.
The way the bout was going many believe Perez caught a lucky break when his head collided with Darchinyan’s a minute into the fifth round, producing an awful blood-spurting gash between his eyes that immediately ended the fight.
Perez was probably spared an extended beating from the awkward Armenian puncher. A long, punishing fight would have definitely shortened Perez’s career.
Maybe it’s already over. How can that be for a guy who only has 23 bouts under his belt?
Well, consider that Perez, who turned pro at the advanced age of 26, had close to 250 amateur bouts.
Consider his workhorse style of non-stop punching. Consider the kind of intense training — sparring and roadwork — that Perez must put his body through to be able to fight in the manner he usually does.
And then consider the back-to-back hard 12-round bouts Perez has been in.
He had to rally to stop Silence Mabuza in the 12th round of their hotly contested title-elimination bout in the top contender’s home country of South Africa in May of 2009.
In his next fight, Perez went toe-to-toe with Joseph Agbeko, outworking the gutsy Ghanaian titleholder over 12 rounds to lift the IBF belt in a fight-of-the-year candidate in October 2009.
Perez’s first defense of that title came against amateur rival Abner Mares, who boxed and brawled beautifully for 12 rounds but wasn’t able to contain his relentless offense and pressure. Perez retained his title by holding the tough and talented young contender in yet another fight-of-the-year candidate last September.
And then the wheels on the Perez express began to come off. Perez lost his rematch to Agbeko, another tough 12 round fight that produced a few round of the year candidates during the heated middle of the fight.
Most observers chalked that loss up to Perez’s inability to cope with the stick-and-move style Agbeko employed during much of the fight, but in retrospect maybe all those hard-fought 12-round bouts had already begun to take their toll.
Time will tell if that’s the case, and soon. Perez, a very tall (5-foot-7) bantamweight, has fought at the 118-pound limit since he turned pro. Perhaps his next fight should be at junior featherweight (122 pounds) or featherweight (126 pounds).
Maybe the added weight will give Perez the legs he was missing during the Darchinyan fight.
Regardless of how much Perez weighs for his next bout, if his legs and reflexes are as slow as they appeared against Darchinyan, his downward slide will be a fast one.