Heavyweight Mike Perez said, “I was not mentally ready for” his draw with Carlos Takam on January 18 in Montreal, a bout in which he competed less than three months after his brutal 10-round unanimous decision on Nov. 2 at New York’s Madison Square Garden left Magomed “Mago” Abdusalamov in a medically-induced coma.
“I learned a lot. A lot. I learned that this is no easy sport. It’s a serious sport,” said Perez, 28, who donated a portion of his purse to Abdusalamov’s family and honored him in the ring by having “Mago’s” name stitched on his trunks against Takam.
“I don’t think that there was enough time from the last fight. I had last fought less than 80 days before. I had just fought in November and then I fought in January. I think that I was not mentally ready for that.”
A former Cuban amateur now living in Ireland, Perez (20-0-1, 12 knockouts) spoke about Abdusalamov (18-1, 18 KOs) during a Tuesday conference call in advance of his July 26 bout against Bryant Jennings, which represents a second mandatory eliminator for the WBC.
In facing Jennings, Perez will return to Madison Square Garden as the co-feature of a main event between WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin and ex-titleholder Daniel Geale. Like his fight with Abdusalamov, Perez will battle Jennings on HBO.
Perez also shared his thoughts in the wake of an earlier report by RingTV.com that Abdusalamov, 33, “is doing better” and “definitely improving” in rehabilitation at the Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y., according to the fighter’s attorney, Paul Edelstein.
Early in Tuesday’s call, however, Perez politely requested that media members refrain from asking questions regarding his bout with Abdusalamov.
“I want concentrate on this fight [with Jennings]. This is the fight that me and my trainer are working for. What happened with the last two fights, that happened in those fights,” said Perez.
“I have to say that I appreciate that nobody asks any questions about that because I don’t want to talk about that fight. That’s in the past and I can’t do nothing with that. So please, I don’t want to talk about the Magomed fight. That happened and that’s it.”
Perez was still emotionally troubled from the Abdusalamov tragedy entering the bout with Takam, a 2004 Olympian from France who had stopped three of his previous four opponents, including former title challengers Frans Botha in the 11th round and Michael Grant in the eighth in March 2012 and in May 2013, respectively.
In addition, Takam entered with a record of 28-1 with 22 knockouts and had won 10 straight fights, eight by knockout, since falling by unanimous decision to Gregory Tony in June of 2009. Although Perez had stopped Tony in the first round in May 2011, he struggled against Takam.
“The fight before that [with Abdusalamov,] it really was a tough, physical fight for both fighters. I agree with Mike, that was, in hindsight, probably too quick to bring him back,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, which handles Perez.
“I was anxious to put him back on HBO as quickly as possible and it seemed prior to the fight that everything was fine. But you could see probably in the performance that everything was flat.”
Perez has been working under a new trainer in Adam Booth in preparation for Jennings.
“Now that he’s had some time off, and that he’s been working with Adam for a number of months, now,” said Loeffler, “I think that you will see a different Mike Perez coming into the fight on July 26.”
PEREZ: THE SHOULDER IS NOT A PROBLEM
Perez said he is fully recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in May that forced the cancelation of his scheduled HBO-televised May 24 fight against Jennings, who had scored a 10th-round stoppage of southpaw Artur Szpilka in his previous fight one day after Perez had fought Takam.
“The shoulder is not a problem,” said Perez, who was cleared to begin training later in May. “I am ready to fight. I’m feeling good. The shoulder is 100 percent.”
PEREZ-JENNINGS WINNER GETS WBC TITLE SHOT
In the WBC’s first mandatory, a rematch of Bermane Stiverne’s unanimous decision win in April of last year over Chris Arreola, Stiverne scored a sixth-round knockout in May for the WBC’s title that was vacated by Vitali Klitschko.
Stiverne must make his yet-to-be scheduled first defense against Deontay Wilder, who is coming off a 96-second stoppage of Malik Scott in March. The victor between Stiverne and Wilder has been mandated to face that between Perez and Jennings.
Jennings said he is not overlooking Perez toward a title fight despite what some have considered his sub-par performance against Takam.
“I just have it in my head that anything can happen…I just literally focus on this fight that I have to win it to even think about anything about the Wilder and Stiverne fight.”
What of Perez against Abdusalamov and Takam?
“Styles make fights and those were two different nights, two different bodies and you can’t really pinpoint what the problem was, even though there seemed to be a problem. But you’ve got to start comparing Carlos Takam to Magomed. It’s like, those are two different types of fighters on two different nights,” said Jennings.
“I don’t know; maybe [Perez] ate something that night or that morning that had him affected but you can’t look at that and just say, ‘Oh, he’s on the down slope,’ and then underestimate him and his ability and then come into the fight thinking that he’s going to look like he did in his last outing.”
JENNINGS COMPARES PEREZ FAVORABLY TO ANDREY FEDERSOV
Asked if Perez reminded him of any boxer he had previously faced, Jennings said Perez was similar to Andrey Federsov, whom he stopped in the sixth round in June 2013.
“I would compare Mike Perez to a better Andrey Federsov. When I fought Andrey Federsov in June of 2013, he had some of the same tactics that I think Mike Perez brings,” said Jennings.
“Perez brings them maybe a little better and a little slicker but I definitely would compare him and somewhat of his style and somewhat of his approach as far as his height and arm length and short punches to Andrey Federsov.”
BOOTH PRAISES JENNINGS
Booth has replaced Abel Sanchez as Perez’s trainer and had little but praise for Jennings, who stands an inch taller than Perez at 6-foot-2.
“Bryant Jennings is a good athlete and he’s a rounded athlete and I can imagine that he’s very capable of a lot of different things. He carries that type of athletic ability into the boxing ring and he has very good concentration and very immaculate discipline. He’s a guy who sticks to what he does well in a fight and if what he does is working, then he doesn’t get reckless and he doesn’t get greedy. He keeps doing what works for him and that obviously shows that he’s got a fantastic coach and a good relationship with his coach,” said Booth of Jennings, whose trainer is Fred Jenkins.
“He has the discipline to do what he has to do in a boxing ring. My job is to look at what he does and what he doesn’t do and then we work with Mike on the incredible skills that Mike has and the phenomenal pedigree that he has as a world-class amateur and the world of different styles that he’s seen. We’re working on a number of different things. We’re not just working on Bryant Jennings moving around because Bryant will also put his hands up and come in close and try to smother close.”
Booth said Perez has to “be prepared for anything.”
“I think that this time around, he’s had to train like a world-class athlete and a world-class fighter. I have enjoyed working with him,” said Booth. “I expect Bryant Jennings to have a game plan and for him to stick to that game plan but this is a fight where the small changes that each fighter will have to make during the fight will factor into how this plays out.”