Undefeated Mike Perez stands on the verge of realising his ambition of fighting for the heavyweight title as the Cuban powerhouse edges towards a WBC title final eliminator against Bryant Jennings on July 26.
Following his impressive, although tragic win over Magomed Abdusalamov in November of last year, Perez, 28, failed to set the world alight in a drab draw with Carlos Takam just over two months later, which the southpaw admits he may have taken too soon after the Russian was seriously injured.
‘The Rebel’ returns to the scene of what was the defining night of his career, for reasons both good and bad, and Perez wants to make up for his poor showing against Takam and earn his shot at the coveted WBC belt.
“It was not the best performance of my career against Takam, but the important thing was to stay on track for my dream of becoming world heavyweight champ,” Perez exclusively told World Boxing News.
“Takam is a good fighter, but I went into that fight with a lot of pressure after the tragic injury to Magomed so the preparation for the fight with Takam was difficult.
“I always want to put on a big performance for the fans, and of course it is exciting to be fighting in front of a big crowd at Madison Square Garden. To fight in the same arena where Ali and Fraizer fought each other is a dream come true for any heavyweight. I don’t know what kind of fight to expect but I know you can expect a victory for me.”
Perez was originally scheduled to return on May 25 until a shoulder ailment pushed the fight back a couple of months, although the extended rest may be just what the former Prizefighter champion needs at this point. The break has given Perez time to heal, not only physically, but mentally too – and the number three-ranked WBC contender believes his is now in peak condition as he bids to end Jennings perfect 18-0 record in New York.
“The injury is good now,” explained Perez. “I wasn’t able to punch effectively because of the shoulder and it was an injury that had been getting worse and worse over a long time, so I needed to get treatment on it. It’s fine now again and I am back punching at 100%.
“Jennings is an obstacle in my way to becoming world heavyweight champion. I respect him, but I don’t usually watch that much tape of my opponents. I let my trainer and my team do that. I concentrate on my own performance and what I can control. For me it doesn’t matter if I am fighting King Kong, I let the guy in the other corner worry about me.”
On the possibility of a future meeting with Bermane Stiverne or mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder, Perez predictably wanted to focus solely on Jennings and holds no preference on whom he would like to challenge for the title.
“I have seen both guys fight and I have sparred Wilder, but it’s not my business who wins that fight and it doesn’t make any difference to me. First I need to deal with Jennings. Then I am happy to fight whoever has the title,” he said.
“The world title is only two steps away now,” Perez continued. “The first step is against Jennings and then I will fight for the WBC title.
“I was world junior champion as an amateur, but have always wanted to become the world heavyweight champion as a professional. Cuba has never had a heavyweight champion in the history of professional boxing – so that would be special and it would also bring a world title back to Ireland which would be very important to the people there.
“Ireland has also never had a heavyweight champ based there so I know the people would like me to do it. Cork is my home now and I have a young family there so to bring the belt home to them would be very, very special.”
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