Both boxers began the round working hard jabs, but Dallas doubled his up with a lot of snap as he aggressively stalked forward. Perez, who barely stands 5-foot-6, wisely got low and ducked under Dallas’ straight shots. He tied the taller, larger man up whenever Dallas got too close.
There was a fair amount of grappling, but Perez, who is physically strong despite his low KO percentage, more than held his own before breaking away to fire counter punches over and under Dallas’ jabs and straight rights.
Dallas increased his pressure and volume in the second round, which drew a warning from Hunter.
“Take your time,” the always-calm trainer called from the corner. “You’re in a hurry. Slow down.”
Dallas was listening to Hunter but “slow down” were the last words he wanted to hear during a heated sparring session. The 25-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., native has trained with a sense of urgency since returning to the gym following a disputed 10-round decision loss to Mauricio Herrera last June. Dallas, who was stopped by Josesito Lopez last January, had a bad 2011, and thus enters 2012 with a chip on his shoulder.
He continued to power forward during the second round of the session, but Perez continued to slip the jab and counter punch while backing up. Between rounds Hunter got Dallas to settle down enough to drop effective body-head combinations whenever he was in close. This forced Perez to tie Dallas up and bull him to the ropes where he worked the bigger man’s body.
As Perez landed a jab-body shot combination, Hunter yelled to Dallas:
“Jab to his chest. Punch where he is, not when he ducks down. Look for the right shot, not over him.”
Dallas obeyed and backed Perez off with a hard jab to the body. Perez missed with a retaliatory one-two but landed a short hook. Dallas landed a hook of his own before the bell.
Dallas stormed out of his corner at the start of the fourth round, jabbing and hooking high and low. Again, Hunter reminded the young man to keep his cool.
“React smooth!” he said. “I didn’t tell you to go 100 miles per hour. Let me see you think in there.”
Dallas attempted to swarm Perez in the center of the ring, which sparked intense inside exchanges.
“Don’t stand over a man shorter than you!” Hunter ordered as Dallas missed with a four-punch combination.
Perez landed a shotgun jab followed by hook to the body just as Dallas connected with a hook to the head. Perez rolled away from a follow-up right cross and countered with a right of his own at the bell.
Now it was Martyniouk’s turn. The 26-year-old lightweight flashed quicker hands than Dallas (which surprised me). The Estonia-born amateur standout was also more elusive than his athletic stablemate, but despite his cat-like in-and-out movement he wasn’t able to catch Perez, who slipped, rolled or ducked under most of Martyniouk’s shots.
Perez figured out Martyniouk’s rhythm and offensive pattern in the next round and accurately punched between the lesser-experienced boxer’s quick salvos. Perez’s timing stifled the punch output of Martyniouk, who was visibly frustrated as he returned to his corner at the bell.
Between rounds Hunter reminded Martyniouk that he had his moments during the round.
“It don’t take a lot of unnecessary movement or punches, Stan,” Hunter said as Martyniouk began his third round (Perez’s seventh). “Just because he lands one doesn’t mean it ain’t working.
“You can always go back to what’s working.”
Martyniouk began the round with a lot of lateral movement. Perez seemed comfortable walking him down.
“I wanna know why you’re moving, Stan,” Hunter called to the distressed-looking Martyniouk. “Don’t just move to move. Take your time. Deep breaths. Don’t rush anything.
“Let me see you think. Let me see you maneuver and get something that counts.”
Martyniouk tried but he was forced into the ropes as he missed with tight punches.
His face was red with stress by the final minute of the round. I had to wonder if Martyniouk, who hasn’t fought since losing a six-round decision to journeyman Khadaphi Proctor in November of 2010, was reconsidering his career during the round, though I hoped that was not the case. I like Martyniouk. I think he’s talented and has future in the sport if he applies himself the right way.
I’m guessing that Hunter told him that between rounds because Martyniouk emerged from his corner with renewed confidence. He began the round by landing a pair of hooks that got Perez’s attention but also drew a sly grin from the contender, who shook his right glove as if to invite Martyniouk to try it again.
“Identify where his hands are,” Hunter said. “Know where he is and let me see you think.”
Martyniouk inexplicably backed himself into a corner, allowing Perez to get off with a four-punch combination.
Hunter was not happy with this move.
“That will be your downfall!” he yelled.
Martyniouk frantically returned fire with a blazing fast combination, but Perez took half a step back and scored with up-jabs.
“Don’t try to tear his head off,” Hunter said as the round came to a close. “He’s too good for that. I want three and four punches, and make ‘em count.”
The bell sounded, ending the session, which gave me a few minutes to chat with Perez on the ring apron as the Garcias removed his gloves.
“I’ve had amazing work up here, I can’t ask for anything more,” Perez said of training in Oakland. “I love the atmosphere at King’s gym. It’s the kind of gym where real fighters are born.”
I’m curious to see if the careers of Dallas, who will face streaking junior welterwieght Miguel Gonzalez (20-2, 15 KOs) in the main event of next week’s Friday Night Fights, and Martyniouk can be reborn.
Perez believes so.
“Dallas and Stan are only going to get better training with Virgil and at King’s gym,” he said. “Both guys are going to bounce back. I’m glad we’ve been able to spar. They make me think. I have to constantly make adjustments because Virgil is constantly making them adjust.”
Perez, who has moved to Robert Garcia’s gym in Oxnard, Calif., for the final two weeks of his camp, admits that he’s at his best when he uses his head during a fight.
However, he believes his HBO-televised showcase against Broner will come down to heart and desire.
“Who wants it more?” Perez said. “Does he want that belt as much as I do? I don’t think so. I think it means more to me. Nothing was ever handed to me.
“My team has fought hard for to be where I am now, and I’ve earned my shot at that title.”
Photos / Truth Esguerra
Email Doug Fischer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer