Rick Wright: Fight shows Perez needs to be in lighter class - Albuquerque Journal

Rick Wright: Fight shows Perez needs to be in lighter class

Like many people, Aaron Angel Perez could stand to drop a few pounds. But not for the same reason as most of us.

Perez, a talented young Albuquerque boxer, sustained the first defeat of his pro career Saturday night in the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Diego Elizondo, another good young fighter, earned the victory by unanimous decision.

It was a competitive fight throughout that, given three different judges, could have wound up a draw or that Perez might even have won. But the three judges who did score the bout – Esther Lopez, Mark Chavez and Anthony Romero, all from New Mexico – all arrived at the same place: 96-94 for Elizondo.

No complaints were heard from the Perez camp. Elizondo (4-2-3, no knockouts), of Carson City, Nevada, expressed gratitude for not having been home-towned.

For Perez, though, the moral of the story should be this: Lightweight (135 pounds), the weight class at which Saturday’s fight was contested, is not where he should be.

You’ll get no argument from Aaron Perez, the boxer’s father and trainer.

Most of Angel’s previous bouts had been contested at or near the featherweight limit of 126 pounds, a few at junior lightweight (130). Angel, Aaron Perez said, was beginning to have trouble making 126.

Saturday’s fight at 135, Aaron said, was something of an experiment. Having seen the result, he said on Tuesday in a phone interview, “I want him at 130.”

At 135? Not again, at least not for a good, long while.

Angel Perez (10-1-1, six knockouts) weighed in on Friday at 134.4 pounds. Elizondo weighed in at 134.8. So, basically no difference. Right?

Wrong. Elizondo is a career lightweight. By fight time, after the two boxers had eaten and rehydrated, the weight difference – though we don’t know this for sure – likely was far greater than four-tenths of a pound.

In truth, though, the real issue was not so much weight but height.

At 5-foot-10, as Elizondo is listed on boxrec.com, he’s some five inches taller than Perez. A height advantage doesn’t always translate to a reach advantage, but it did here, as Perez acknowledged after the bout.

Asked whether Elizondo’s left-handed stance had been a factor, Perez said no. But he added, “He was a lengthy southpaw.”

At 5-foot-5, or thereabouts, Perez typically has not been at a major height/reach disadvantage at featherweight or junior lightweight. And more of than not, when facing a taller fighter, he’s been the stronger of the two – able to apply pressure and impose himself physically.

Saturday, against a talented, tough, bona fide lightweight, that wasn’t the case.

As fighters mature, making a lower weight can become difficult and even dangerous. But as long Perez, 23, can make 130 pounds, he should.

THE CARD: Saturday’s Legacy Promotions show at the Kiva, the first professional card staged in Albuquerque since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, likely sent the some 1,000 fans home happy – albeit disappointed that Angel Perez lost in the main event.

Fight of the night honors would have to go to the light-flyweight donnybrook between Albuquerqueans Anthony Bustillos and Santiago Giron, Bustillos the winner by fourth-round TKO. The four-round welterweight battle between Albuquerqueans Xavier Madrid and Cristian Castillo, Madrid the winner by unanimous decision, was almost as good.

As for the main event, it was a boxing purist’s dream: two smart, well-schooled young fighters probing for weaknesses, slipping and blocking punches, looking for an edge.

“Technique,” Aaron Perez said. “A chess match.”

Yet, there was no lack of action.

A four-round heavyweight bout between Albuquerque’s Leonid Grachev and Bernalillo’s Brandon Heredia, won by Grachev via lopsided decision, was a bloody mismatch. Grachev (3-0, two KOs), 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds but young in his career, will prove difficult to match appropriately.

The same goes for Abraham Perez, Aaron Angel’s younger brother and a highly decorated amateur. Co-promoters Aaron and Jordan Perez looked high and low for an appropriate opponent for Abraham’s pro debut.

Obviously, they were unsuccessful. Mississippian Matthew Melton, after failing to land a single punch in the first round, opted not to come out for round two.

As COVID-mandated Mexico-to-U.S. travel restrictions relax, matching Abraham Perez likely will become an easier task.

As for Saturday’s opening bout, a middleweight four-rounder won by Albuquerque’s Jordan Gregory (1-3-2) by unanimous decision over Phoenix’s Anthony Hill (1-29, no typo), never mind.

This was a late throw-in, added to the card as a hedge against the possibility of losing a previously scheduled bout to a positive COVID test. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

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