Alejandro Perez on the cusp of long awaited World Class respect.
In the curious way that some fighters do, Alejandro Perez (19-3-1, 13KO) presents a completely different persona outside the ring than he does inside the ring. If you know Alejandro, it is almost a Clark Kent to Superman type of a transformation. Outside of the ring, he is a mild mannered soft-spoken bespectacled guy who writes poetry, admires romanticism, loves children, animals and is adept at creating intricate wood burning art. He is your textbook Mr. Nice Guy. A little on the serious side, but you know in your bones that he wouldn’t – no he couldn’t hurt a fly. So, then one day, if you’ve been living under a rock since March 25, 2011 Antonio Escalante vs. Alejandro Perez, or maybe just since February 22, 2013 Art Hovhannisyan vs. Alejandro Perez, you decide to come out of your subterranean home and support Alejandro by going to see him fight. And wham! Suddenly under pressure your friend is very different than you envisioned. The poetry, along with the romanticism, art, kids and animals are a distant memory. Alejandro has lost his glasses and in the calculated way that is the ebb and pulse of the relentless rootless determination that is the cold focus of a ring assassin, Alejandro is going to hurt someone. Really ice some dude. And you are going to have a really entertaining night guessing when and how hard somebody is about to get rocked to the core.
Alejandro in his usual unassuming way admits to the above. However, the suggestion of Clark Kent to Superman almost makes him blush predictably. But when you put together that those who know Perez personally are more likely to call him a lover rather than fighter, along with the fact that Perez has never found himself in a fight outside of the ring ever, and he would seem to be a sort of boy wonder l’enfant terrible.
Perez: When I’m out of the ring then I’m me. They call me the lover boy. When you see me fight you see a dangerous guy, very explosive who likes to fight. But in reality you get to really know me, I hate violence. I never got in a fight outside the ring in my life. Not in school, not in the streets - probably the complete opposite of a fighter. I like romanticism. I write poetry I do art. I love kids. And all the kids, they seem to follow me. UFC Cypress, that’s where I work, I teach the kids’ class. You should see the big following that I have there. I try to make it fun. I try to joke around and at the same time have a good workout."
Lover boy or fighter, Perez has come by his current fortune the hard way. After ten long years as a professional veteran opponent, it certainly is no boy who has finally found himself in an enviable spot as one of Top Rank Promotions top prospects in the featherweight division. With this win, should he get it this Saturday in Las Vegas at Texas Station Casino versus Juan Carlos Martinez (19-14-1, 7KO), Perez has been basically guaranteed a World Title Shot for his next fight. But how does someone who hates violence find the grit, tenacity and endurance to work for ten long years as an opponent with no guarantees of ever being invited to the grand ball as something more than just a plus one? Perez’s answer would seem to be rooted in his early life where against all odds, including separation from his family, crushing poverty, and an uncertain status in this country, boxing found him and became his rock and mainstay in an ever-changing roiling sea of fate:
Perez: "I was born in Jacona, Michoacan, Mexico. At the age of three months I was left there. My grandma was my mom. My cousins were my brothers. I didn’t know I had a family over here until one day I was seven years old and out of the blue my dad and my older brother get there. They just showed up and next thing I know I’m on the back of a 4 by 4 truck asleep because I was given a pill so I could relax."
From this bumpy start, though now Mr. Perez is a legal citizen of this country, it wasn’t until 2008 that his parents were able to perform the necessary steps for him to become a documented US citizen. In the interim, Perez became a master at keeping his dreams and goals steady in the face of uncertain and tenuous means towards attaining them. A serious well performing student in school, if boxing had not found him, it is highly probable that Perez would be on his way to affecting lives as an architect or in some other all encompassing pursuit. However, like true love, boxing struck hard and fast like an arrow through the heart. Like a jealous lover, she would not be denied and held fast to the young Perez as her prey:
Perez: "I always wanted to become an architect, a teacher, a veterinarian - something to help the community out. One day my oldest brother, he was already boxing, he said, “Alex, I’m going to go train. You want to go with me?” The first day that I got there my trainer who is my trainer now, Hector Valladarez asked me “hey Alex, do you want to train?” I guess he asked my older brother, “has he ever boxed before?” No. I was just a natural fighter. Nineteen years and I’ve never stopped. Not one day. I didn’t find boxing. Boxing found me. I just fell in love that much that I focused just on boxing. I was nine years old. So I was in elementary school. Elementary school, middle school, high school, and some of the college, I was just boxing. Home and boxing. I didn’t have no girlfriend. I had my friends, but I didn’t go out, I didn’t work. All I did was boxing and home. Boxing was my religion per se. That was just it.
With regard to this love that seemingly went unrequited for so long despite it’s intensity, Perez is curiously thoughtful and stoic:
Perez: "Boxing I’ve come to know is like a marriage. You’ve got to treat it like a marriage. You gotta be faithful to it. Because as boxing it can be good to you, it can be very cruel. It can give you fortune. It can give you cars, jewelry, houses everything. And it can also kill you. So when you step in the ring, you have one foot in the cemetery and you have one foot in life. That’s the way I see it. I know that for a fact that that can happen. One punch and I can die. But I’m willing to take that risk for my family."
Indeed, against all odds, Perez never quit or faltered. One would have thought that Perez’s thudding first round KO of Antonio Escalante in 2011 would have been the start of all of the wonderful and beautiful things of which aspiring World Championship Titleholders dream. Instead it led to the crippling professional ostracism that can come from being too good too early with too little representation. Labeled a difficult fighter with little reward for the trouble, Perez languished without a fight for more than a year after his demolition of Escalante. The only thing that sustained him were his close-knit family ties - specifically those with the two brothers that for the early part of his childhood he didn’t even know existed. They sent him money and continued to believe in Mr. Perez, fanning the flames of his confidence with their undying support:
Perez: "It’s a dream that the three of us began one day. The times when I haven’t fought for a year and a half and I needed money, they were sending me money. We’re very close family. If one brother is in trouble, we all gather up and we pull money together and we give it to them. And we don’t want it back. That’s just the way that we were raised. I’m lucky enough to say that I have that kind of family."
It would be a full two years in 2013 when Perez would be able to seize the spotlight again by fighting and winning by decision against friend and prospect Art Hovhannisyan on television at The Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon, California. It was this win that would finally tip the scales in Perez’s favor with regard to his story starting to be rewritten in the public arena with him as the main character versus the fringe day player:
Perez: "He was an undefeated fighter. He was the favorite. TV had him the favorite, the promoter was on his side. Fans were on his side. We went to a decision. Don’t ask me why, but something told me inside when they were about to give the decision that I won. I was happy. I was very happy very satisfied. Before they raised my hand I already saw it in my head. I didn’t know if that fight was really going to put me out there. It did. I’m a fight away from fighting for the World Title now."
Not one to overlook the man in front of him, Perez seems to be ready and prepared for Juan Carlos Martinez this coming Saturday night. However in keeping with Perez’s belief in not giving the unknown too much weight or power, he has not and will not view any tape on his opponent Mr. Martinez. This he leaves to his trusted trainer of nineteen years, Mr. Hector Valladarez:
Perez: "Many friends they have asked me, “do you watch your opponent’s fights?” No. I don’t like to watch them. They may fight a fighter a certain way that when they come to fight me they fight completely different. I’m thankful that first round, half of the round I can pretty much read their movements guess what they’re gonna do. I can adapt to their style. I prefer doing that. I love my trainer. He looks at the fights and the videos and then I work with him. But I don’t like watching the fights."
With regard to that indefinable thing that sets an individual apart as a champion versus a contender, Perez had this to say about himself on the eve of what looks to be the beginning of some very exciting times for him in his career:
Perez: "What makes me different is the way that I was raised. I know what poverty is. I know what not eating for a couple of days is and I’m not afraid of it. I thank God that I was raised that way. My grandpa, may he rest in peace, he worked the land – the strawberry fields. He would drive the tractor. He started to teach me how to drive the tractor. So he taught me a lot. We’ve got to always be simple no matter how high we may be flying. We’ve always got to have our feet down on the earth. No matter how high I may find myself in my career as a person I’m always gonna be that noble gentle man that everybody knows."
In keeping with how he was raised and what he knows to be true, we hope to see Alejandro Perez fight his fight to much fanfare on Saturday Night.