Mike Perez set to face Thabiso Mchunu in South Africa on June 23

RINGSIDE 28/03/2018
Mike Perez

He’s big, he can bang and he comes from a country that churns out superstars.

Mike Perez will become the first pro fighter from Cuba to box in South Africa when he challenges Thabiso Mchunu at Emperors Palace on June 23.

The former heavyweight, who now makes his home in Ireland, fits promoter Rodney Berman’s requirement of a top name for Mchunu as the boxer is desperate to make his way back into the elite of the cruiserweight division. (Constantin Bejenaru’s lack of enthusiasm for the challenge forced Berman to look elsewhere).

Whether Perez is the best option for Mchunu himself sense is another matter. Known as “The Rebel”, Perez throws bombs and has made serious dents along the way. His 2013 fight with Magomed Abdusalamov, a bruising, brutal affair that ended tragically for the Russian, offered stark confirmation of Perez’s power and durability.

A subsequent defeat to top heavyweight Alexander Povetkin made him change tack and he changed his diet and training regime to drop down to cruiserweight.

After two years of inactivity, the southpaw took 29 seconds to smash Slovakia’s Viktor Biscak, but his time out of the ring was too much to overcome as he subsequently dropped a decision to Mairis Breidis in the World Boxing Super Series. Undeterred, he bounced back in devastating fashion last month with a 30-second blowout of Pablo Matias Magrini.

Said Berman: “I was in New York when he fought Abdusalamov and couldn’t believe the fight the pair put up. Perez is a very dangerous contender and Thabiso will have to be super-smart to beat him. He’s in the top 12 of the WBC, so that’s something for Thabiso to aim for. Beating Perez will give him great credibility.”

Cuba’s boxing legacy is, of course, world renowned, the country having produced great fighters the like of Felix Savon, Kid Chocolate, Yoan Pablo Hernandez and many others.

The fight is a tremendous addition to a bill that is fast taking shape and will be headlined by Thulani Mbenge in defence of his WBC International welterweight belt.

Ryno Liebenberg will also feature in a high-profile international bout, as will Rowan Campbell