Every fighter has his cross to carry. This wisdom is almost as old as boxing itself. Mike Perez, who is known in the boxing world as The Rebel for a good reason, stands out even amongst the sport’s most stirring stories of fate.
In 2007, Mike Perez seized the chance of a lifetime by swimming to a smuggler’s boat off the Cuban coast to flee the country that was his home. The reason: In Cuba there was no way for Perez to box professionally and thus earn urgently needed money for his family. After reaching the boat, he had to hide at sea for more than a week and was even held at gunpoint before he could set foot on Mexican soil. Ultimately, at the end of this odyssey, he would end up in Ireland, where he would start his professional boxing career.
The escape from Cuba had not been an easy decision for the extraordinary amateur boxer, who was trained in Cuba’s legendary boxing program alongside other greats such as Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara. As part of the Cuban national team, he had already made a name for himself as a technically accomplished boxer with serious punching power. In 2004 he won the gold medal at the Junior World Championships. His amateur statistic consists of more than 400 fights, including victories against Yunier Dorticos and Luis Ortiz.
The artistically gifted but als destructive boxer Mike Perez did not need much time to make an internationally recognized name for himself in the world of professional heavyweight boxing. He rushed to 18 wins in 18 fights, 12 of which were knockouts.
Then followed what should have been the highlight of Perez’s professional career so far: his US debut on Gennady Golovkin’s undercard in New York City. The Cuban, who fought under Tom Loeffler’s K2 Promotion at the time, shared a brutal battle with the Russian Magomed Abdusalamov, that caused tragic and life-changing brain damage for his opponent. Perez was understandably struck, even though he had won what was arguably the most important fight of his professional career thus far.
During years of intense internal struggle with the consequences of his fight against Abdusalamov, Perez was unable to reach his full potential. This resulted in a somewhat shocking retirement after losing to Alexander Povetkin in a title eliminator.
Two years later, much to the surprise of the boxing community, Perez announced his return to the sport, but this time as a cruiserweight. He was able to quickly prove to all doubters that a 75 pound lighter version of the still very agile and strong hitting Cuban was more than enough to compete at the highest level. So it was only logical that he was inducted into the World Boxing Super Series, where he fought against then world champion Mairis Briedis for the WBC cruiserweight title.
After the World Boxing Series, Perez continued to follow the path to world elite by defeating Keith Tapia for the vacant WBA Fedelatin cruiserweight title.
Perez is humble and matures as a boxer with every fight. It is clear to the hard hitting Cuban that he can be the cruiserweight world champion and he is relentless in pursuing his dream just like he is in the boxing ring. Until the opportunity comes, he will continue to train and prepare for the next big fight.