The Contender

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by Peter Hemming

The roar of the crowd is defining. The referee recites the rules of the fight but you only hear the last few words. Going back to your corner, you take off your robe and the bell rings. Now it’s you or him. There’s no prize for second best. It’s winner takes all. Only the modern prize fighter, like ancient gladiators know the fear and excitement of sporting combat.

Eloy Perez is such a man. A contender for the world’s super featherweight (130 lbs) championship, this soft spoken young man living in a quiet Salinas neighborhood packs dynamite in both fists. A native of Oaxaca Mexico, his parents migrated to the U.S. when Eloy was 11 months old for, “a better life and the American Dream,” Eloy recounts. Settling in Rochester, Washington, his father and mother worked in the state’s agricultural industry while Eloy, a self confessed, “trouble maker” kept getting into fights at school. “I was short, fat, with long curly hair,” Eloy laughs as he describes his former self. “My father said, ‘so you want to fight?’He he took me to a local gym.” Eloy was 12. Over the years between playing paintball and hiking the local mountains, the troublemaker was transformed into a lean and disciplined athlete.

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Turning pro at 18, Perez engaged in five bouts before graduating from Rainier High School where his natural athletic abilities made him a star running back on the varsity football team. He was so tenacious a competitor that Eloy ran 200 yards and scored four touchdowns on a Friday night and fought his third professional fight that Saturday and won.

Brought to the attention of fight manager Kathy Garcia, Eloy was brought down to Salinas for training in February 2007. While signing with Oscar De La Hoya’s Goldenboy Promotions in 2010, Eloy gave himself a nickname, The Prince. “It’s just the way I carry myself, I like being better than average.”

The Ring magazine describes Perez as “a crafty counter puncher with strong inside fighting skills.” With 23 fights, 21 wins and 0 losses, Eloy combines his extensive athletic abilities with a strong training ethic. The day begins with running six miles, both level and uphill, calisthenics, hitting the heavy bag for strength, the speed bag for rhythm and of course, the jump rope; all of this in an intense three and a half hour period for eight straight weeks. Trainer Max Garcia stresses old school boxing, utilizing learned skills and athleticism and to “hit but not be hit.”

When Perez enters the ring it’s all business. “I’m totally focused when I’m fighting,” Eloy explains. “Every round is different so we have different strategies for each round.” But sometimes a fight is so fierce you just have to “go to the wall.” Along with the usual cuts and bruises sometimes your opponent doesn’t play fair. While fighting Gilbert Sanchez Leon, Eloy was head butted so severely that he needed several stitches to close his wound.

On September 2, Eloy went up against Daniel Jimenez at the Salinas Sport complex, and emerged the champion; knocking him out in the second round. Televised nationally on Telefutura, the event was the first major prize fight hosted by a central coast city.

Newly married, Eloy’s wife Samantha fully accepts her husband’s vocation. “She supported me even before I turned pro,” says Eloy, who met his better half while still living in Washington five years ago. Until the day he hangs up his gloves, Eloy Perez will continue to fight his way from victory to victory and ultimately getting a chance for a title shot. Reflecting philosophically, Eloy radiates more of confidence than braggadocio on his chosen profession, “I‘m young, hungry and unstoppable!” Yet, he quietly adds, it is important to, “train hard, be patient, and be humble.”

 

 

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