Let's Hope the Show Goes On
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 21, 2011) Doghouse Boxing)
Nokia Theater
[Writer’s note: OK, I'm sure you've heard by now that the much anticipated finals of the Showtime bantamweight tournament will not take place as IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko has been scratched from his bout against Abner Mares. It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that Agbeko collapsed while arriving at LAX with what sources say is sciatic nerve damage, which explains why he was absent from the Tuesday media workout in Los Angeles. After an examination by the respected Dr. Richard S. Gluckman, Agbeko was eventually ruled out of this fight.

Now, in an effort to salvage this card at the Nokia Theater at LA Live- which also has the consolation bout between Yonnhy Perez and Vic Darchinyan- Eric Gomez, matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions, tweeted that he is attempting to replace Agbeko with Japanese bantamweight Tomoki Kameda, who is 18-0 with 12 knockouts to his credit and his currently the NABF bantamweight champ. According to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, he and Gary Shaw want to move ahead with this line-up but ultimately, it will be up to Showtime. Right now, Ken Hershman, who runs the network’s boxing division, is on vacation in Italy.

With that said, being the eternal optimist, I will go ahead and pen the story I have on Perez. And quite frankly, I have nothing else to write about.]

Trainer Danny Zamora had just one thought when he saw his fighter, Yonnhy Perez, break down on the eve of his rematch with Joseph Agbeko in December in Tacoma, Washington. It's standard for fighters to meet with the announcing crew of the participating network the day before the fight and reveal a bit of themselves. However, in what was a memorable scene that was captured by Showtime, Perez started to cry as he talked about his family in Colombia. While it was heartwarming and touching to the viewing audience, it was something else to Zamora.

"Right when I seen him break down, mentally, my mindset was, 'We lost this one,' because I know how much he fights for his family and his motivation," he said this Monday, during their final days of preparation for Vic Darchinyan (who Perez may or may not be facing this weekend) at the Santa Fe Springs Activity Center. "When I seen him crying, I was like, 'Dude, this is going to mentally drain him. I know where his mind’s at.' His mind was already in Colombia."

When asked if he had any inkling of how fragile his fighter’s state of mind was, Zamora says, "The week before the fight, he was being a little emotional, just talking about his family. His son was sick, the two-year-old. The older one, he's gotten used to [Perez] being away because [Perez] was in the service, in the military. But with the two-year-old, it was different because he was going back-and-forth. I think that one has affected him more."

Perez is married to a woman named Layney and they have two sons, Mateo and Yonnhy Jr. He had been away from them since February of 2010 leading into that return bout with Agbeko. For this training camp, they decided to start off in Colombia. "He was already training there. When I got there, he continued and brought him home. You could tell the difference; he felt more at ease, more relaxed," said Zamora, who flew to Colombia in mid-March to be with his boxer. "I mean, you could just see the difference in him. So I'm hoping that will be the difference in this fight. I take nothing away from Joseph Agbeko; he fought the perfect fight. After the fight, we never said this. I'm not using this as an excuse; it's just something I personally saw in him but Agbeko fought the perfect fight to beat Yonnhy."

Credit must be given to Agbeko, who made all the adjustments needed to beat Perez. Unlike in their first meeting, “King Kong” used deft movement and quick counter-right hands to offset the pressure of Perez, who could never get a bead on him. Antonio Tarver, former light heavyweight champion of the world and now an analyst for Showtime, was there at the production meeting with Perez. His belief is that the emotion that spilled out really had no bearing on the fight. "No, I think that if you did [say Perez’s emotional breakdown was his weakness], you're taking away from Agbeko's great performance," Tarver said to Maxboxing. "I think the guy fought top-notch that night. I mean, he moved; he counterpunched; he stuck it in there, toe-to-toe. He did everything. So I can't take anything away from him. I think the guy [Agbeko] brought his A-game that night. You could tell he was really focused to get his championship back and it worked out for him.

"I mean, Yonnhy fought hard but he just seemed like he was a step behind all night long. Even when he tried to counter, he was a little too far out,” Tarver observed. “He basically had an off-night and Agbeko had one of his best nights. So I don't want to take anything away from the champion. I think he fought very well; Yonnhy fought very well but he had a very heavy load on his heart and sometimes that's motivation. A lot of guys use that as motivation but a lot of guys can't rise to that occasion when they're in there with a fighter like Agbeko, who wanted his championship back. He had lost to Yonnhy before; he wanted revenge and I think the best man won."

To his credit, Perez says (through Zamora), "I don't want to make any excuses for myself. Agbeko was a better fighter that day, just like I was on the day I beat him. I'm not going to take anything away from Agbeko. This was my problem what happened and that's all." Asked for his state of mind coming into this weekend, he answered, "I feel mentally stronger. I feel like I have the support of my family, just being with them, my kids. I'm just going to show everybody on April 23rd that I'm back."

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perez knows this better than anyone.

"I will never allow that again, to be away from my family that long, again," he said. "I've put enough sacrifice for this sport being away from my family. Now, things are different. I see that my kids are getting bigger; they need me there. So from now on I will do my training in Colombia and come finish off here."

What happened in that conference room with the Showtime broadcast team showed that fighters, for all their uncommon courage and bravery, are prone to the same emotions as anyone else, when it's all said and done. Tarver, who's been on both sides of the table, says, "We are all emotional creatures and when you're dealing with something of that nature, it's heavy on you. His kids, his loved ones- that's a heavy load. We didn't know he had been dealing with that, prior, and it was one of those things that was magnificent in a way because a lot of people need to understand that we fight with heavy loads on us. We're human and a lot of people just think we're fighters. They don't get a chance to see that side and that perspective of us being human beings. They just think we're warriors."  

Another issue that may have played into his rather flat performance in Tacoma was that Perez, who is 32 years old (an especially advanced age for a bantamweight), prepares as if he is going to run a marathon and not just a 12-round fight. There is a train of thought that the man who has logged a lot of miles on the odometer in recent years might have over-trained.

"That's always been his problem," said his manager, Frank Espinoza. "It seems that he overworks himself and he gets tired in the ring. For this fight, he's taken it easier and he's going to leave everything in the ring, not before the fight in the gym." But Espinoza believes that Perez’s pre-fight spill of emotions was a factor in his loss to Agbeko. "Yeah, I do because when that happened, I think it took something out of him mentally too, absolutely."

For this contest, "His mind is set," said Zamora, "he's just like, 'Y' know what, Danny? This is what I need to do to get back at that title. I'm not going to let what happened with Agbeko happen again.' He's a veteran fighter; he's an older guy and that experience will kick in."  

If there is a fight on Saturday night, Perez swears he will be ready. "I feel really good; I feel 100 percent. I wish tomorrow was Saturday so we could get this fight going. I feel good and I'm going to win this fight."  


According to DKP publicist, Alan “Hip” Hopper, who was with Agbeko when he fell in pain while walking to their vehicles at LAX, what may have contributed to his condition was that, in addition to doing eight miles of roadwork on Monday morning, their flight had a three-and-a-half hour delay and then you had the five-hour travel time.  

I don't think for one second Agbeko is faking this injury. The reality is that for a guy like Agbeko, opportunities like this don't come around often and when you fight for Don King nowadays, you barely fight at all, it seems. It's not as if he was a no-hoper against Mares. In fact, many boxing insiders tabbed him to win this fight. I just can't buy that a guy goes through a whole training camp to do something of this nature.  

However, I do find it interesting that a fighter is still hitting the pavement for that long less than a week before the fight. Usually, by this time, all facets of training (whether it be sparring or floor work) is tapered down. This suggests to me that Agbeko might have been having some struggles getting down to 118 pounds. As for running on hard surfaces, well, that's never been all the great for your back.

It's a buzzkill but I hope the fights go on.

JUNE 4  

On June 4th at the Staples Center, the HBO main event is the fight between Sebastian Zbik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for Zbik’s WBC middleweight title. I'm told now that there is a very good possibility that a fight between WBO flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Miranda and Brian Viloria will be added to that bill. It was thought that Miranda would face Giovani Segura, who has stated his clear intentions to move up and vacate his 108-pound title but after months of being led to believe that Viloria would get the first crack at Miranda, when it was announced that Miranda would instead face Segura, manager Gary Gittelsohn stated his objections to what he believed were dishonest negotiations. And after having turned down a couple of television dates in the Philippines, Gittelsohn rattled a few sabers and was threatening legal action.  

Gittelsohn speaks softly but he carries a big stick and does not make idle threats. So now, this fight has a good chance to land on this card. Now, in addition to this bout and the fight between junior middleweights Vanes Martirosyan and Saul Roman and featherweight Mike Garcia against a very good opponent (who I can’t talk about right now since I'm sworn to secrecy but trust me, it's a huge upgrade over Billy Dib), I think this is a very good card.  

In fact, the only fight I'm not particularly excited by is the main event.  


It wasn't a banner day for the high-flying Espinoza Boxing Club as Antonio Orozco ran into a bad batch of “Chicken o’ the Sea” and got ill, forcing him to withdraw from his Thursday night assignment at the OC Fight Club. Promoter Roy Englebrecht says Orozco has been re-scheduled for May 20th at the same venue at the OC Hangar...Bob Arum announced at the Manny Pacquiao media day to the likes of Lance Pugmire and Jaime Motta (who tweeted the info) that the July 9th bout between WBA lightweight titlist Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon will be held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Ca., which I think is great. That's a great venue...There is a good possibility that a bout between Kermit Cintron and Jesus Soto-Karass will open up that Showtime broadcast...As a Padres fan, I'm saddened that the ownership of the Dodgers by Frank McCourt could be coming to an end...Hey, does anyone that goes to Kentucky under John Calipari ever stay for the sophomore year?...Our own East Coast correspondent Alec Kohut has a brand-new weekly online broadcast that airs every Tuesday night at 9:00 PM EST. You can find it by logging on to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search/aleckohut/.

I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

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