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Pro path begins for Perez

Aaron Angel Perez gave himself an Olympic ultimatum.

Win or move on.

The plan was this: If Perez were to win his 132-pound weight class in last December’s USA Boxing national championships in Salt Lake City, or even advance deep into the bracket, he would continue his quest for a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Otherwise, at age 20, he would abandon his Olympic dream and turn pro.

His first-round loss to James Browning at nationals wouldn’t necessarily have closed the door on the Olympics. But Perez, one of New Mexico’s most successful amateurs of recent years — a Golden Gloves and USA Boxing regional champion and a Golden Gloves national runner-up — closed that door himself.

He’s scheduled to face fellow Albuquerquean Levi Lucero in both fighters’ pro debut Saurday at Route 66 Casino Hotel.

“If I had succeeded to advance a little bit more (at nationals), then I would have stayed amateur and continued down the Olympic road,” Perez said in an interview at his family’s southeast Albuquerque boxing gym.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t (happen). … I would still have a chance, but I just let that tournament define whether I’d turn pro or not.”

Perez has a style that should adapt well to the pros. Though he’s a skilled boxer, he has displayed the ability to go rough-and-tumble when the situation demands.

“It just depends on my opponent,” he said. “I’ve outboxed taller people before, but if they know how to use (their height and reach) efficiently to their benefit, you’ve got to change the game around. With people like that you’ve got to press forward.

“If you’ve got a slugger in front of you and if he’s slow on his feet, you can hit him and move and you don’t have to get hit.”

Perez learned his skills principally from his father and trainer, Aaron. The younger Perez, known in boxing circles as Aaron, is “Angel” within the family.

It’s a boxing family. Angel’s grandfather boxed in Juarez, Mexico.

“He just did it as a hobby,” Aaron Sr. said. “He’d always take me and my little brother to watch Julio Cesar Chavez’s fights. He was my hero, pretty much.

Aaron Sr. never boxed competitively, nor did his older brother, Jordan. But their younger brother, Agustin “Junior” Perez, is a professional boxer.

For Angel and his two younger brothers, Abraham and Andrew, boxing simply made sense.

“Our family has always been rough,” Angel said. “We’ll be at Walmart and we’ll be hitting each other in the aisles, just playing around.

“Growing up I had a lot of cousins, a lot of family, especially that were around my age. … Growing up together we’d have our little differences, and we’d just handle it outside, or wherever.”

Jordan and Aaron Sr. decided to channel that aggression through boxing. They began training their sons/nephews in Junior Perez’s garage, then at the family-owned and -operated body shop, Perez Collision Center.

Finally, Perez Boxing moved into a building on Edith Southeast that once housed a Baptist church.

Angel supports himself by working at the body shop.

“I’m an all-around guy there, pretty much,” he said. “I’ll be out in back, or I’ll be in the office doing computer work or I’ll go help pull off a door, something like that.”

Since his father and his uncle run the business, his work schedule accommodates his boxing schedule.

“If I want to leave early and go get a run, (Aaron Sr.) is cool, totally cool,” he said. “If I have a (physical) therapy appointment, it works out. It works out nice.”

Even so, Angel was beginning to see his pursuit of the Olympics as a financial burden. After 12 years in the sport, he decided, it was time to leave the amateur ranks behind and play for pay.

Toward that end, it helps that his father and his uncle are the promoters of Saturday’s card.

“Finances and everything, I couldn’t do it for free anymore,” he said. “I took my last shot (in the amateurs) and it didn’t work, so I just turned pro. I figured I’d make some money out of it.”

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