Agbeko, Perez fighting for different causes

Updated: November 6, 2009, 12:54 AM ET

Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing Promotions

Joseph Agbeko dreams of one day becoming boxing's pound-for-pound king.

Agbeko, Perez have different goals

Bantamweight titlist Joseph King Kong Agbeko has a revelation and a goal. Challenger Yonnhy Perez just wants to feed his family.

First Agbeko's revelation: King Kong, a seemingly ideal nickname for a tough, physical fighter to go by, is not actually his nickname. It is, in fact, the middle name Agbeko was given at birth in Ghana.

"God chose me to be King Kong," said Agbeko, who now lives in Bronx, N.Y. "When I was born, my dad gave me the name. That's why I wanted to become a world champion. I was destined for greatness. This name was a message from God.

"Growing up in Ghana, God picked me to be a boxer from a small boy. My dad gave me the name and it always pushed me to street fight and beat people. Gorillas are tough. I am tough."

Agbeko will get another chance to show how tough he is, and continue marching toward his goal, when he makes the third defense of his 118-pound world title against mandatory challenger Perez, of Colombia, in the first boxing event to be held at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT).

Agbeko's lofty goal is to be more than merely a world champion. He wants to someday be considered the best fighter in boxing.

Agbeko, 29, claimed a belt in September 2007 when he thrashed titlist Luis Perez for a seventh-round knockout. After defending the title just once last year, Agbeko gained wide acclaim and landed on some pound-for-pound lists, including ESPN.com's top 20, with his impressive upset decision in July against Vic Darchinyan, the powerful junior bantamweight champion who moved up in weight to take a crack at Agbeko.

Agbeko turned back the challenge with relative ease, but he wants more.

Joseph Agbeko

FightWireImages.com

Joseph Agbeko burst onto the scene by thrashing Luis Perez in 2007.

"My dream is to become a unified world champion [and] I want to become the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world," Agbeko said. "My dream is to defeat every boxer that comes my way, not just Vic Darchinyan, not just Luis Perez, not just Yonnhy Perez. But my dream is to win every fight that comes my way. I'm ready for the world and I'm ready to become No. 1 pound-for-pound in this game someday. That's what I always prepare for.

"My focus is to become No. 1 pound-for-pound one day. That's my dream. That's my focus, and I'm working toward it."

How dedicated is Agbeko to achieving his goal?

"He knows this is his job. He doesn't make my job very hard. I wake up and he's already gone and training," trainer Adama Eddy said.

Perez, 30, earned his shot against Agbeko the hard way. He went to South Africa in May to face highly regarded contender and former two-time title challenger Silence Mabuza. Perez was the underdog but scored a decisive 12th-round knockout.

The victory only added to his confidence coming into the title fight.

"Of course, it was a boost of confidence, but one thing that everyone needs to be aware of is that my confidence didn't come just from that fight," Perez said. "I have my confidence in my preparation and I'm confident every time I step in the ring, no matter who I'm facing. Beating Mabuza was a great deal for me, but I had confidence in my power and my ability even before I stepped in the ring, and the same thing is going to happen [Saturday]."

While Agbeko aims to follow the successful path blazed by countrymen Ike Quartey and Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson, Perez (19-0, 17 KOs) is focused on more immediate things, like providing for his poverty-stricken family in Colombia. Perez, who lives and trains in Santa Fe, Calif., said nearly all of the money he earns boxing is sent home to his family, whom he visits for a few months each year.

Thoughts of his family are what kept Perez going during the difficult fight with Mabuza.

"I was thrilled that I was able to win, but what I remember the most was going into the 12th round and knowing that it was a very difficult fight for me going throughout the first 11 rounds," Perez said. "It was a very close fight and I knew that I only had one opportunity, which was the last round. I asked God for strength to help me. He was the only one who knew how hard I had worked to get to that point. He knew how tough it was to get to that opportunity. I remembered my kids back in Colombia and all the needs that my family have.

"My motivation is to let my kids know that being in a professional sport is the cleanest way to have a decent life. I have sacrificed a lot for them. I know why I do it, and it's so they can have a better life in Colombia."

Agbeko and Perez, both with crowd-pleasing styles, are both predicting knockouts.

"He feels confident because he has never been beaten before. But I want everyone to know that he's going to get his first defeat [Saturday]. It's going to be a knockout," Agbeko said. "Perez can definitely not stay in there with me. He's definitely going to get stopped."

Said Perez, "I like the fact that Agbeko thinks he is coming to knock my block off. I really want him to show me how good he is. I love for fighters to make bold predictions. Just ask Silence Mabuza about his prediction before our fight last May. Ask him about his desire to go home early that night. Silence will tell you how dead wrong he was.

"If [Agbeko] says that he's going to deliver, that's great. I just hope that he comes ready. He's not facing a nobody, he's fighting a real future champion. He's not fighting his wife, he's fighting a real man."

Big-name heavyweights plug on

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Oleg Maskaev, left, and Hasim Rahman have officially hit the comeback trail.

Former heavyweight titleholders Oleg Maskaev (36-6, 27 KOs) and Hasim Rahman, who met twice with Maskaev scoring knockouts both times, are plugging on in an effort for another big fight.

First up will be the 36-year-old Rahman (45-7-2, 36 KOs), who hasn't fought since December 2008, when Wladimir Klitschko gave him a beating en route to a seventh-round TKO to retain his heavyweight belts.

Rahman will fight a 10-rounder against an opponent to be determined on Dec. 3 in Rochester, N.Y., the hometown of manager Steve Nelson. Also on the card will be another faded contender, former title challenger Michael Grant (45-3, 33 KOs).

"We know that if we get 'Rock' a win he'll be eligible for a bigger fight next year," said Nelson, who got permission from Rahman promoter Top Rank to put him on the X-Cel Worldwide-promoted card. "His name still comes up for bigger fights, but we need him to get a win. We'd like for him to go out with something halfway decent because 2010 is probably going to be his last year in the ring, so he needs a win to put himself in that position."

Nelson said one potential fight for Rahman could be a trip to Poland to face cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek, who blew out Andrew Golota last week in his heavyweight debut.

Maskaev, 40, has won two in a row since being knocked out by Samuel Peter in the sixth round and losing a world title in March 2008, will go for his third win in a row Dec. 11 at Memorial Auditorium in his adopted hometown of Sacramento, Calif. Maskaev, who is from Kazakhstan and lived for several years in New York, moved to Sacramento three years ago.

Dennis Rappaport, Maskaev's promoter, said he'll face Nagy Aguilera (14-2, 9 KOs) of the Dominican Republic.

"If Oleg is successful, it's likely he'll then be in a final eliminator to become the mandatory [to titleholder Vitali Klitschko]," Rappaport said. "He has to win two fights. First, Dec. 11 and a final eliminator."

Rappaport said that final eliminator would be against Ray Austin -- as long as Austin defeats DaVarryl Williamson on Saturday in Las Vegas on the Agbeko-Perez undercard.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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