Mike Perez narrowly avoided the first defeat of his career after a lacklustre performance that his trainer labelled as “unfocused”.
The 28-year-old heavyweight was fighting for the first time since his infamous bout against Magomed Abdusalamov in November which ended in the Russian undergoing brain surgery and succumbing to a stroke.
Perez escaped with a majority draw against the Cameroonian/French underdog Carlos Takam. Saturday’s ten-round fight was on the undercard of a HBO-televised light heavyweight bout between Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute at the Bell Center in Montreal which ended in a one-side win for Pascal before 20,000 fans.
With 20 wins and 12 knockouts to his name thus far, Perez dominated the low-key opening rounds before his 33-year-old opponent took the initiative and landed enough hard shots to cast doubt in the judges’ minds.
Although Nicolas Esnault scored it 96-94 for Perez, Jean Gauthier and Sylvain Leblanc both judged it to be 95-95 meaning the majority draw was the only option available.
Perez’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, had indicated in the days leading up to the fight that the Cork-based Cuban was struggling with the memory of the Abdusalamov encounter in New York. The Russian heavyweight has emerged from his medically induced coma but cannot talk, walk or recognise people. Perez dedicated the fight in Canada to Abdusalamov and had his name stitched into his trunks while also donating part of his prize money to his former opponent’s family to cover medical costs.
Takam (29-1-1, 23 KOs), started the fight almost two stone heavier than Perez. He landed 156 power punches to Perez’s 125. The Cuban was unlucky when he took an early accidental head butt which led to a cut over his right eye.
“I’ve never seen Perez so unfocused,” said Sanchez afterwards. “He was in la-la land. He was never the same after the headbutt.”
With Takam gaining confidence and standing between rounds, Perez took a heavy right in the seventh and kept surging forward in the ninth, working the body with both hands and sending Perez back onto the ropes in the tenth, chasing a knockdown that wouldn’t come.
“Mike fought well early on but the head butt left him with blurred vision and seemed to keep from him being able to mount a consistent attack in the second half of the fight,” said promoter Tom Loeffler. “Mike’s headed back to Ireland to see his family and we’ll regroup after he recovers from the cut and start planning his next fight.”
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