In his last fight, Michael Perez suffered a sixth-round knockout loss to Petr Petrov in September and then watched as Petrov was rewarded with an opportunity to challenge lightweight world titleholder Terry Flanagan.
Now Perez, who cannot afford to lose a second fight in a row if he wants to remain in the title hunt, is on the comeback trail and returning to the junior welterweight division where he has fought many times.
Perez will take on Marcelino Lopez in a 10-round fight that will headline the third installment of the new “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” series on Thursday (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN3 beginning at 8 p.m. ET) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Perez (24-2-2, 11 KOs), 27, of Newark, New Jersey, is keenly aware what is at stake for him against Lopez.
Oscar Valdez, Gilberto Ramirez and Jessie Magdaleno have worked side-by-side during training camp and are ready to defend their titles on Saturday.
Middleweight contender Avtandil Khurtsidze has had a long wait for another shot at a belt but it’s here now and Khurtsidze vows to make it count.
“This fight is extremely important for my career and I have a lot on the line,” Perez said. “I also know that Marcelino has so much to gain if he beats me. That adds all the more pressure to make sure on my end that I have to do what I have to do to make sure that I win. Golden Boy has been good to me in giving me this opportunity and being the main event on an ESPN card gives me the chance to develop as a fighter and build out my fan base.
“Coming back from a loss, there’s a lot of pressure but that fuels my desire to get the win. I’m ready. I’ve been training hard and I’m willing to go the distance with Lopez.”
Perez, who is Puerto Rican, trained on the island to get ready for Lopez.
“For this fight, I trained in Puerto Rico and had one of the best training camps of my career,” he said. “I focused a lot on sparring and body work. I’m confident I am going to give my best shot and put on a great fight.”
Lopez (32-1-1, 17 KOs), 30, of Argentina, will be fighting in the United States for the second time in a row. He has a tremendous record but has not faced any recognizable opponents. He has won three fights in a row. A win against Perez would be, by far, the biggest of his career.
“I don’t know much about my opponent, just that he has a unique boxing style and that his nickname is ‘The Artist.’ However, come fight night, those who see me will witness who the real artist is,” Lopez said. “My plan is, of course, to try to finish things early, and that will come by coming forward aggressively and putting pressure on him.
“Argentina has a number of champions that have been able to make their name known here. I hope to do the same, and this fight being televised on ESPN is a huge opportunity for me and my career. I will not let this opportunity slip.”
The 10-round co-feature will pit welterweight up-and-comer Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis (17-0, 12 KOs), 23, of Boston, against John Karl Sosa (13-2, 6 KOs), 24, of Puerto Rico.
The fight will be Ellis’ first since he scored a sensational first-round knockout of fellow prospect Eddie Gomez on Dec. 16. Sosa has lost his last two fights, including most recently by 10-round decision to Gomez last 11 months ago.