Mike Dallas Jr. (left), Eloy Perez (center) and Stan Martyniouk (right) pose after a sparring session at King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland, Calif.
It was no surprise that my first visit to Eloy Perez’s camp took place at a private facility in Hayward, Calif., and not King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland, where the junior lightweight was training for his Feb. 25 challenge to WBO titleholder Adrien Broner.
My first scheduled “pop-in” on one of my favorite young fighters took place on Jan. 16, Martin Luther King Day, and if you know anything about Oakland, you know that its various communities pride themselves on being socially conscious.
Folks in the Bay Area’s grittiest town are going to recognize a day set aside to honor a champion of civil rights, thus King’s gym (named after trainer Charles King, not the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize) was closed.
However, as you all know, boxing never sleeps.
Perez (23-0-2, 7 knockouts), who resides in Salinas, Calif. (about a 1½-hour drive south of Oakland), is preparing for his first world title bout. Virgil Hunter, who normally trains his fighters at King’s gym, is currently rebuilding two prospects who are in need of the kind of education that only comes from sparring with a more experienced pro.
So Hunter, the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America’s Trainer of the Year for 2011, opened up his private gym – normally set aside for his star boxer, the BWAA’s Fighter of the Year Andre Ward – in nearby Hayward to accommodate Team Garcia and to provide another learning experience for his young pupils, Mike Dallas Jr. and Stan Martyniouk.
I was there, along with my wife and two girls (who accompanied me to a family reunion of sorts in San Francisco that weekend).
[Editor’s note: the photos, taken by Truth Esguerra, that accompany this Gym Notes were not taken at the private gym, which is a spacious hanger tucked away in a nondescript industrial park. These pics were taken at the King’s gym, which I have yet to visit but believe will soon be as busy and highly regarded as the Wild Card Boxing Club is now.]
It was a bit chilly that late morning, but I forgot about the temperature once the sparring session got underway.
After a couple of brisk rounds, I felt like I was auditing a Boxing 101 class taken by Dallas and Martyniouk. The course was taught by Prof. Hunter along an astute teaching assistant in Perez, a 25-year-old contender most of my fellow boxing writers are counting out against Broner.
I beg to differ with my peers. I like Broner a lot and I believe the 22-year-old Cincinnati native has a bright future. However, his resume is rather thin beyond a 10-round unanimous decision over former 122-pound beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon last March (which more than a few observers thought he lost).
I question if Broner has the experience to deal with someone as fundamentally solid as Perez over the 12-round distance. But most boxing observers figure Broner’s intoxicating blend of speed and power will blast Perez to the canvas before his comparitive lack of seasoning becomes a factor.
Perez’s co-trainer, Sam Garcia, believes the Twitterverse fans and fight scribes are getting too excited about Broner’s recent knockouts of Jason Litzua and Martin Rodriguez (which earned “the Problem” the WBO’s vacant 130-pound title).
“Every 130-pound prospect wanted to get at Litzau after he upset Celestino Caballero,” said Garcia, the son of Perez’s head trainer Max Garcia. “Litzau was beyond faded. Broner’s knockout was a mirage.”
Garcia admits Broner’s hand speed and punching power are not mirages, but he says Perez has experienced that combination before, and prevailed.
“Broner’s got power, and he’s a finisher, so Eloy will have to be careful – especially early,” he said. “If he isn’t careful Broner could catch him the way Dannie Williams did early in their fight. But even when Eloy was hurt, and dropped, he got up and fought on even terms with a guy who has very fast hands and real power.”
Garcia is referring to Perez’s close 10-round unanimous decision over Williams, 12-0 with 10 knockouts at the time, in 2009. Williams, a native of St. Louis, where Broner-Perez will take place, has won nine in a row (seven by knockout) since the untelevised loss, which was a barnburner by all accounts.
“Eloy neutralized Williams over the last two-thirds of the fight,” Garcia said. “He’ll gradually take over the Broner fight, too.
“Broner’s fast, but not with his feet. Sometimes it seems like he can’t move. He leans a lot and he reaches with his punches. There are a lot of mistakes that we can take advantage of because Eloy has the edge in skill, technique, and footwork.”
Class is in (sparring) session
Those attributes were on display during the eight rounds Perez sparred with Dallas (17-2-1, 7 KOs) and Martyniouk (10-1, 1 KO). Dallas, a 25-year-old junior welterweight prospect from Bakersfield, Calif., was up first.