Andy Lee is backing Mike ‘The Rebel’ Perez to seal his bid for a WBC World Heavyweight Championship title shot in New York tonight.
The Limerick middleweight has even joined up with trainer Adam Booth to help prepare the Cuban Corkman for the big eliminator at Madison Square Garden.
Should Perez secure the expected victory over Philadelphia fighter Bryant Jennings, he will finally be in a position to fulfil the potential that followed him to Ireland since his defection from the troubled Caribbean nation eight years ago.
Perez launched his professional career in Cork in January 2008 but has faced several setbacks along the way. But it wasn’t until January that he failed to win for the first time in 21 bouts, splitting a decision with Carlos Takam in Montreal following his infamous November win over Magomed Abdusalamov in the Garden.
HBO have Perez back on their screens for the third time, sensing, like Lee, his big moment is coming and this evening he will share the top billing with star middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin who is taking on Australian Daniel Geale.
“Mike couldn’t be in better condition,” said London-based Lee of ‘The Rebel’ at the Garden on Wednesday.
Perez was equally effusive of his praise when asked about Lee after Wednesday’s final press conference.
“He’s a good guy, he’s a great guy. I just bumped into him in his gym in London and automatically connected with him like I would with any Irish boxer.”
Perez has developed into a resilient tactical fighter but is one of many admirer’s of Lee’s sensational June knockout of John Jackson.
“Yeah it’s still the best knockout of the year,” said Perez. “We were talking about that a little bit and yeah, that was a big punch, big punch.”
Of course, his main focus is on overcoming undefeated Jennings this evening with the aim of bringing a heavyweight belt to Cork.
“Hopefully. I represent Cork, I represent Ireland. This is the country that offered me the laws to be who I am now and to be a professional athlete. I have big respect for Ireland and all the people who follow me. I have a lot of fans in Cork. It’s my country. My three girls live there. I can live there for the rest of my life. I want to bring the first world title.
“(Manager) Patrick Thomas is doing his best for me developing me into who I am. This is very nice. For someone who doesn’t know much about the sport and doesn’t know much about the profession, he has brought me onto this next level. I respect that, I appreciate that.”
Perez is confident of overcoming his opponent Jennings, a jovial outspoken character from North Philly who weighed in at 20 pounds less than the Cuban, 222.6 lb as opposed to 242.2 lb.
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