Undefeated Colombian fighters with glossy records are a dime a dozen, but they tend to unveil their true potential -- or lack thereof -- as soon as they bring their game to the big leagues. And even though the disappointments tend to outnumber the real deals, an occasional gem can be worth the wait.
The moment of truth has arrived for lightweight contender Darley Perez (25-0, 19 KOs), who will put his unblemished record on the line against the also-undefeated Bahodir Mamadjonov (11-0, 7 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder this week on "Friday Night Fights" at the Morongo Resort and Casino in Cabazon, Calif.
Only three opponents had managed to go the distance with Perez before he arrived in the U.S. in December 2010 to stop Ramesis Gil in four rounds and begin verifying his power. Since then, the 28-year-old veteran has racked up seven more wins -- most by KO and in the state of California -- to earn wider recognition. Perez, a former Olympian who had a prolific amateur career (more than 220 fights), is being moved aggressively after having turned pro late, at age 25.
"I'm not a flashy boxer. I'm very calm in the ring," Perez said. "I keep the distance and walk my opponents down."
Born and raised in the area of Barranquilla, a Colombian boxing hotbed, Perez still often trains there before completing his camp at the Santa Fe Springs Boxing Club in California. Amazingly, he has never been knocked down or even penalized in the ring, as an amateur or pro. Perez is coming off a second-round knockout win over Alain Hernandez on April 6, and previously fought on a Showtime card in September 2011, when he TKO'd Oscar Meza in the sixth round in a step-up bout.
Perez now gets the chance to turn it up yet another notch against Mamadjonov, 25, a tricky fighter with decent power and lots of ambition. Mamadjonov comes in as a late substitute for former champion-turned-trial horse Michael Katsidis, a right-hander who would have posed a great threat to Perez's own ambitions. But Mamadjonov has an agenda of his own, and his stance as a converted southpaw will complicate things for Perez.
"I'm naturally right-handed," said Mamadjonov in broken but clear English for a man who claims he didn't speak the language before arriving in the States three months ago. "I used to fight both ways. My first coach was always, 'Both hands -- right hand and left hand.' I did that for nine years. Then, when I went to boxing college, there my coaches say, 'No, you need to learn one thing -- only southpaw. When you're southpaw, you can move good, you punching good. You have power punch with both hands."
The Uzbekistan native is trained by Ken Richardson and former middleweight champ Frank Tate in Houston. Mamadjonov has barely past the two-digit professional fight mark, but he defeated notable fringe contenders Michael Clark (42-8-1, 18 KOs) and Archie Ray Marquez (12-2, 8 KOs) in two of his most recent outings.
Perez and Mamadjonov, who claim to have seen each other duking it out in the unpaid ranks a few times (which is possible given their extensive experience there), will probably clash head-on from the opening bell, trying to make a war out of the fight and to add a valuable knockout in the early stages of their careers. If Perez is as good as expected, he should handle Mamadjonov's onslaughts and come out on top to put his name in the mix at 135 pounds, where he will have his hands full at the next level of competition. Should be a tough fight, with at least eight rounds of solid action and an open ending.
In the earlier TV fight, another scheduled 10-rounder will pit Chris Avalos, 22, against Yenifel Vicente, 26, in the junior featherweight division.
Avalos (19-2, 15 KOs), sandwiched a three-fight winning streak (including a points victory against unbeaten Khabir Suleymanov) between losing his undefeated status to Christopher Martin two years ago and, most recently, dropping a split decision to unbeaten former Olympian Jhonatan Romero in December. But Avalos' solid boxing skills and the guidance of former light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustapha Muhammad could help set him back on track.
He'll first have to get past Vicente (23-0-2, 15 KOs), a Dominican Republic native who has fought only twice outside his island nation (in Aruba and Nicaragua) and against a pool of opponents who are mostly unrecognizable and nursing records below .500. If Avalos steps up his defensive game and brings the heat as he did in his failed bid against Romero, he'll be on his way toward turning his young career around.