One of the biggest letdowns a fighter could have is finding out their scheduled bout has been cancelled because their opponent is unable to go for whatever reason. Their disappointment level is greater the closer to the fight the pullout comes. More often than not, their weeks or months of preparation are all for not. There are exceptions of course. Featherweight Alejandro Perez had been scheduled to take on touted prospect Ronny Rios last Friday night in Costa Mesa, California before he got one of those calls fighters dread. Fortunately another call came soon thereafter, and now Perez finds himself in a televised main event against world ranked Antonio Escalante tomorrow night at the Fairfield Sports Center in Fairfield, California.
When Perez (14-2-1, 9 KOs) of Salinas, California got word that the Rios fight was off, no one would have blamed him for getting frustrated. Perez had several bouts scheduled in 2010, but not one actually took place. More often that not, it was his opponent that was either injured, sick or out with a case of cold feet. On two occasions, it was Perez himself that had to withdraw due to injury or illness.
“It just sucks when you are very anxious, and you have a lot of people cheering for you and many of them have already bought tickets, and everything is ready,” says Perez. “And then last minute, a couple days before the fight you get that call and it is not going to happen after all. It was very disappointing, but then again this is the boxing business. It happens once, it happens twice. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.”
Perez’ positive mindset likely aided his ability to shift gears back into preparation mode when the call to fight Escalante came. “We had already been preparing for Ronny Rios, and so our training was not put to waste,” says Perez. “What we do know is that he is a tougher fighter and a very aggressive fighter, but we are ready for whatever he may bring Friday night. We have been training very hard and I feel great for this next fight.”
Escalante (24-3, 15 KOs) of El Paso, Texas represents a more dangerous challenge than would have the prospect Rios last Friday. Where Rios is mostly an untested commodity, Escalante has won at the higher level in the past. Not only is Escalante more experienced, but the Texan has also become known for his action style and penchant for pier six brawls. “I know he is a toe-to-toe type of fighter,” says Perez of Escalante. “Myself, I am a toe-to-toe type of fighter, but I can also be a boxer. If he wants to brawl, then we will brawl. Two things are for sure: the people are going to see a fight and the people are going to get what they paid for.”
While it is likely Escalante will come forward looking to make an action fight, Perez plans to be flexible in his approach in case his opponent does not hold true to form. “I know Escalante is one of those fighters that goes in there and gives a fight, and so am I,” says Perez, who trains out of the famed Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California under Hector Valladarez. “I know he will come in there with a certain game plan and I have a game plan of my own. But once fight night comes, things can change dramatically, so I just have to adapt to whatever he may bring.”
Perez has been a super bantamweight for just about his entire career, but had planned on moving up four pounds to the 126-pound featherweight division for his next fight even before he got the call from the Escalante people. Escalante too had been a 122-pounder until recently moving up a weight class, but for this fight the IBF #6/WBO #14 ranked featherweight’s team requested that the bout be made above the super featherweight division limit.
“Escalante’s team wanted 132-pounds, but I said no, that is too much for me,” says Perez. “I couldn’t do 122 no more, so I decided to move up to 126. My next fight should have been at 126. But I guess they really wanted the fight, because they called us back and said how about 130? 126 to 130, yeah its four pounds difference, but it is time for me to fight and I feel really good at this weight. I have been weighing 130 for about the last two-and-a-half weeks and I have been feeling great. I feel it is going to be a great weight for me, but I am only going to fight this fight at 130 and then go back down to 126.”
The last time Escalante was in the ring was probably his worst night as a boxer. Fighting a featherweight eliminator in the opening bout of a pay-per-view telecast, Escalante was bombed out in three rounds by Daniel Ponce De Leon last September. It was the type of devastating knockout that could potentially have lasting effects. “I have never been knocked out myself or hurt that bad, but I believe it gets to anyone that has had a fight like that,” believes Perez. “He is going to have that little bit of fear of getting punched to the maximum again, as he was by Ponce De Leon. I will definitely have that in mind, but if I see the opening during the fight, believe me I am going to take it.”
The Escalante fight could be a make or break moment in the career of Alejandro Perez. Not only will the ten-round fight be the televised main event on Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo telecast, but a victory would catapult Perez into the world rankings and make him a viable opponent for any top featherweight. “To date, this is my biggest fight,” says Perez. “So I have to leave everything in the ring. I have to go in with the mentality of winning no matter what it takes. I am going to leave my heart and soul in there. This is the type of fight we fighters train for, and the type of fight we fighters live for.”
Regardless of the final outcome, Perez makes one last promise, “It will definitely be a crowd pleaser, I am sure of that.”
Mario Ortega Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.