The battle for Treasure Island
Agbeko defends IBF bantam belt against No. 1 Perez
Story by Chris Cozzone
Photos by Javiel Centeno and Chris Cozzone
There’ll be no chance of a decision, close fight or piracy at Treasure Island come Halloween.
At least, that’s what Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko says, about his IBF bantamweight title defense against undefeated Colombian Yonnhy Perez.
“There is going to be a knockout,” vows Agbeko. “I’m going to be the first one to beat him – the first to knock him out.”
On Saturday, Oct. 31, Agbeko (27-1, 22 KOs), of Bronx, N.Y. by way of Ghana, and Perez (19-0, 17 KOs), fighting out of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., will headline the first-ever fight card at Treasure Island, on a Showtime-televised card promoted by Don King and Gary Shaw.
Perez, the mandatory challenger for Agbeko, is, neither, concerned about the champion’s knockout threats, nor willing to give a prediction.
“He can say what he wants,” says Perez. “That’s why he lives here. He has freedom of speech. But I traveled to Africa. I know how they fight, and I know that they talk more than they can do.
“He should not spit too much into the air, for it may fall back onto his face.”
Perez has been to Africa to fight — he’s also been on the short end of pre-fight trash talk. But the No. 1 ranked challenger’s words of advice have an equal amount of weight behind them as Agbeko’s kayo threat.
In his last bout, for the IBF’s No. 1 spot at 118, Perez silenced Silence Mabuza, of South Africa. Behind on the scores, Perez entered the 12th and final round needing a knockout to win the fight. After flooring Mabuza with a left hook, Perez finished off his opponent for a TKO win at 1:06.
“I congratulate Yonnhy Perez for his victory over Mabuza,” says Agbeko. “I respect him as a good fighter, and an undefeated one.
“I know how undefeated fighters feel – confident. They are confident because they have never been beaten before. I love fighting people like that. They think they will always win their fights. But he is gonna get a first loss on Oct. 31.”
Agbeko by the way, lost his perfect record more than five years ago now, in a majority decision loss to Wladimir Sidorenko in Germany.
“It was a boost of confidence, beating Mabuza,” says Perez. “Beating him was a great deal, but I have that same confidence no matter who I am facing.
“It’s going to be a night to remember in Las Vegas.”
Perez is not the only one who was impressive in his last outing.
In July, Agbeko scored one of the big upsets of the year when he took on – and defeated – Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan, by a close-but-unanimous decision.
“I was there in Florida when he fought Darchinyan,” says Perez. “He fought with a lot of heart and he did have a great performance. He, obviously, beat Darchinyan with ease.
“But it would’ve been an embarrassment if he didn’t, because Darchinyan was moving up weight. Still, he showed the heart of a champion. I know he’s a great champion.”
Great champion or not, Perez says he and trainer Danny Zamora have spotted many of Agbeko’s weaknesses. Those, he says, he will “keep for myself to use on Oct. 31.”
Agbecko, on the other hand, dismisses any sort of game plan cooked up by Perez.
“My dream has been to become world champ, unified champ and the No. 1 pound-for-pound champion,” says Agbeko. “I will fight anyone who comes in my way. No one – not Darchinyan, not Luis Perez, not Yonnhy Perez – will get in my way.
“I am ready for the world.”
Perez, however, would like to remind Agbeko that he will, on Oct. 31, stand between the champion and “the world.”
“If he says he’s going to deliver, that’s great,” says the challenger. “But just come ready. You are not facing a nobody.
“You are facing a real future champ – not your wife.”