Mike Perez's career has been in free fall since the tragic night of Nov. 2, 2013, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
On that night, Perez won a bruising 10-round unanimous decision in an HBO-televised heavyweight fight with Magomed Abdusalamov, who shortly after the bout was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery for swelling of his brain. He suffered irreparable brain damage and now needs care around the clock.
Coincidence or not, Perez, once a rising contender, has not been the same fighter since, going just 1-2-1, including suffering a first-round knockout loss to former titlist Alexander Povetkin in his last fight, which took place in Moscow in May 2015.
Now Perez is making a comeback two years after that defeat and he will do so by moving down to the cruiserweight division to face Tommy McCarthy on June 10 at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the undercard of bantamweight world titleholder Lee Haskins' defense against Ryan Burnett, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Tuesday.
Perez weighed 240½ pounds for the fight with Povetkin but will compete against McCarthy in the 200-pound weight class.
The 31-year-old Perez (21-2-1, 13 KOs), a Cuban defector fighting out of Cork, Ireland, will face McCarthy (9-1, 5 KOs), 26, from Belfast, and is anxious to show himself off in the new division.
"I've been working very hard behind the scenes and I'm very excited about the McCarthy fight," Perez said. "Both of us need to win to move on to major titles and I'm happy to go into his hometown to get the opportunity. I'm ready to give the fans a great fight on June 10."
McCarthy is coming off his first defeat, a 12-round decision to Matty Askin in November in Manchester, England. The fight with Perez came about in unusual fashion, according to Hearn.
"I'm shocked this fight is up and running but it's great news for fight fans," Hearn said. "[Featherweight prospect] Mick Conlan tweeted me and asked that Tommy be on the card and at the same time I had a request from Mike Perez to be on the show.
"I contacted both teams and they instantly accepted the fight. It's a career-defining clash for both. Lose and it's all over. Win and it kick-starts a whole new career at championship level. It's going to be a big night of boxing on June 10 in Belfast."