Editor’s view: Perez v Abdusalamov – The night two ring careers ended

Phil Jay 23/05/2015

Once touted as a nailed-on world heavyweight champion, the career of Mike Perez took another sad turn on Friday night as the Cuban was blasted out in just over 90 seconds by Alexander Povetkin in Moscow.

Not to take anything away from what was a superb and devastating win for the Russian, but Perez has lost that fire he used to display which once put him on the verge of challenging for a recognised title belt.

Rewind back to that fateful night in November 2013 as Perez entered the ring to face another Russian in Magomed Abdusalamov at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two southpaws engaged in a brutal battle from the word go until the final bell after ten rounds, hitting each other with everything they had in a full blown war with little regard for defense.

It’s been well documented what happened to Abdusalamov who faces struggles every day of his life from now on, but unmistakably Perez had something beaten out of him that night from which he has simply never recovered. Whether it was the actual punches that did the damage is irrelevant as the mindset of Perez forever changed at the end of that fight, and has seemingly cost ‘The Rebel’ any hopes he held of one day reaching the pinnacle of the sport.

Just 77 days on from the bruising encounter and whilst Abdusalamov was in the midst of rehab trying to rebuild his life, Perez made the shocking decision to return to the ring against the dangerous Carlos Takam and looked a shadow of his former self in labouring to a draw.

Perez then saw some sense and took a couple of months off before returning to training in a new attempt to push towards a world title when facing Bryant Jennings in July 2014. Perez lost for the first time in his career and would not fight again for another seven months.

That solitary fight in thirteen months and losing his unbeaten record meant Perez was forced to tip-toe back versus Darnell Wilson in February 2015 and predictably took the 18-loss journeyman out in two rounds. Without the competitive action needed, you may have been forgiven for thinking Perez was back on track – until he ran into Povektin this weekend and was exposed badly for his frailties since the Mago fight – that has clearly had a profound effect on a once promising career.

Whether Perez can ever put that situation to the back of his mind and move forward to the way he once was with that ruthlessness he showed in defeating Abdusalamov, and firstly in winning the UK Prizefighter tournament in 2011, is highly unlikely after Povetkin left him a desolate fighter.

At just 29, Perez is relatively young for a heavyweight and should truly find the core of his mental problems that are totally causing havoc with what his body allows him to do.

I’d hate to witness another beating for the Ireland-based boxer at any point in the future and maybe Perez, who showed all the promise in the world before one dark night cast a shadow on his talent, should seriously think about whether he is in the right frame of mind to continue boxing on.