Becoming unofficially the co-best prospect in the world wasn’t enough for Albuquerque boxer Aaron Angel Perez.
A draw, even achieved against a highly touted, heavily favored opponent on boxing’s big stage, wasn’t what Perez had come to Dallas for.
“I feel like I won it,” Perez (10-0-1, six knockouts) said in a phone interview Sunday after having fought to an eight-round featherweight draw against hot prospect Raymond Ford (8-0-1, four KOs). The bout was streamed internationally on DAZN, part of a blockbuster card staged by Matchroom Boxing.
Clearly, Perez exposed some holes in the game of Ford, a stylish southpaw who in the buildup to the fight had pronounced himself “the best prospect in the world.”
Just as clearly, Perez made a statement. Signed for the fight as “the opponent” for a prized Matchroom contract fighter, he took the fight to Ford for most of the bout’s 24 minutes.
Where that statement leads is unclear.
Ford, dissatisfied with both the decision and his own performance, immediately stumped for a rematch.
Neither Perez nor his father and trainer, Aaron, expressed much enthusiasm for that suggestion.
Neither Matchroom CEO Eddie Hearn nor matchmaker Eric Bottjer, the elder Perez said, broached the subject Saturday night.
“They were a little stunned,” he said. “But honestly, I’d tell them straight up, ‘What do you want a rematch for?'”
Aaron Angel Perez entered the ring on Saturday having not fought in 16 months due to COVID-19 restrictions. Ford, thanks to his Matchroom contract, fought three times in 2020.
“Angel, if he’d had a busy 2020, things would have been a lot different,” the elder Perez said. “… If you haven’t fought in a while, you’re gonna show the rust.”
Any rust, though, was not evident Saturday. Though the official scorecards weren’t available, Perez won the first three rounds on the Journal’s card — pressuring the New Jersey southpaw and giving him little punching room.
Ford rallied in rounds four and five, showing more movement, creating space, landing right jabs and body shots while keeping his back off the ropes as Perez appeared to slow.
But from rounds six through eight, Perez seemed to find a second wind. The Journal scored the sixth for Perez, the seventh for Ford. In the eighth, with the outcome in the balance, the Albuquerque fighter’s pressure was virtually nonstop — forcing Ford into the corners and blasting away.
It was not, though, he said on Sunday, pressure without a plan.
“It was like, how you’d say, strategic pressure,” he said. “We’re going in consistently and trying to map out his mistakes at the same time.
“Sometimes when we hit him it was during his time of error. That’s pretty much how we were getting the best out of the exchanges.”
Like his father, the younger Perez was lukewarm at best regarding the possibility of a rematch.
“If they wanted to do another one, we could do it,” he said. “But it wasn’t like, in my view, a fight that actually should have been scored a draw.
“If I was content that it was a draw, I would have been more satisfied with saying all right, we can do a rematch, or whatever. But I didn’t feel like it should have been ruled a draw in the first place.”
The official scorecards read 78-74 for Perez, 77-75 for Ford and 76-76. The Journal scored it 77-75 for Perez.
What’s next for Perez, if not a rematch?
His father, one half with his brother Jordan of Albuquerque’s Legacy Promotions, hopes to promote again in 2021 after a barren 2020 with Aaron Angel at the top.
“I’m hoping we can open up in April here in New Mexico,” he said. “I’d like to get (Aaron Angel) going again and try to avoid him getting rusty.
“(Saturday’s fight) is something I wanted to take, though, even though I knew we had it against us as far as being rusty and trying to get our rhythm in there. But I had to get his name out there, one way or another.”
Mission, it would seem, accomplished.
CATCHING UP: Friday in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Albuquerque MMA welterweight Jalin Fuller (5-0) defeated Treston Vines (4-1) by first-round TKO (punches) in the semi-main event of an LFA card. Fuller trains at Duke City MMA.
… As first reported by mmafighting.com, Albuquerque MMA flyweight Jordan Espinosa (15-9) has been released by the UFC. Espinosa’s March 6 loss by unanimous decision to Tim Elliott was his fourth in his past five fights.
… UFC welterweight Matt Semelsberger (8-2), who defeated Jason Witt by TKO on Saturday in just 16 seconds of the first round, is from Maryland but is represented by Albuquerque’s Wildbunch Management (Tom and Arlene Sanchez Vaughn).