Perez stands in Spadafora's way
Johan Perez might not be the household name in boxing that Paul Spadafora is obsessed with, but Spadafora's fight with the Venezuelan represents the biggest of Perez's career for one reason.
Spadafora is an undefeated former world champion, one whose name still has drawing power.
“If I lose, what do I have to offer?” Spadafora said. “The other perspective is, if I win, maybe that will make people want to fight me.”
First, Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 knockouts) must beat Perez (17-1-1, 12 KOs) in their bout for the interim WBA world light welterweight belt Saturday night at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester, W.Va.
It marks the first world title fight for the McKees Rocks boxer since his unification bout with WBA super lightweight champion Leonard Dorin in May 2003 at Petersen Events Center.
That fight, which ended in a controversial draw, marked the eighth and final defense of Spadafora's IBF belt. His career was soon sidetracked by legal problems, alcohol and drug addiction.
Spadafora has had a dozen fights since then, the past three at Mountaineer.
“I'm over that ‘comeback' stuff,” Spadafora said. “I've been over that since the day I walked out of prison.
“This kid I'm fighting is a tough kid: long, tall and a puncher. Anybody who signs with Golden Boy can fight. I'm going to go in there and use my experience. That's what I've got going for me. I worked hard for this fight.”
Perez has won two fights, including a majority decision over 35-year-old Steve Forbes, since his lone defeat to Pablo Cesar Cano in July 2012. The Perez-Cano fight ended in the seventh round following an accidental head clash that opened a deep cut above Cano's right eye.
“Johan Perez is a very good fighter,” corner man Tom Yankello said. “He can do a little bit of everything. He's 5-11, so he's got a couple (advantages) in reach and length on Paul. He's an awkward fighter and throws some big shots. He loves to throw a big hook and even changes his stance to throw the hook. These are all things that make him difficult.”
Spadafora has an experience edge that makes him a favorite. Plus, he is leaving nothing to chance, adding trainer Buddy McGirt to his corner last week.
“I feel that we have two hungry fighters, but Paul is the better fighter all the way around,” Yankello said. “He's quicker, and he's better defensively. But this guy is a really formidable opponent.”
One who not only stands in Spadafora's way of becoming a world champion once again, but also has the opportunities to sign with Golden Boy Promotions and get potential fights against Danny Garcia and the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, Floyd Mayweather.
“That makes me hungry enough to get in there and perform at a high level,” Spadafora said. “It keeps me motivated every day. I want to be back to top-notch. I don't want to be ranked No. (4). I want to be No. 1.”