By Fiona Manning
Danny Perez, who challenges WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito in the main event of “Latin Fury II” at the Anaheim Arrowhead Pond on Saturday, wants not only the title - but revenge for his first loss against Margarito three years ago.
For Perez, the hard-fought eight round decision loss is still a bitter pill to swallow.
The 25-year old San Diego resident, currently training in harsh conditions at Big Bear Lake, CA, is putting it all on the line to face Margarito once again.
“He dropped me in the first round and it plays over and over in my mind,” said Perez of the barn-burning fight held at Fantasy Springs in Indio, CA in June 1999.
Though it ended in a split decision after eight rounds for Margarito - meaning one of the judges saw it for Perez - he feels the loss as if it happened yesterday.
“I need to beat him convincingly and this time I will,” he said. “I need a decisive win to gain world-wide respect as a boxer.”
Perez, who is the NABF (North American Boxing Federation) welterweight champion, the NABA (North American Boxing Association) champ and Californian state welterweight champion, has a record of 27-2, 17 KOs.
“I was inexperienced when we met the first time but it was a close fight,” said Perez. “This time, it won’t be close, I can tell you that. I plan to hit him all night long.”
Perez, taking a rare hour off from training, has been in Big Bear for the past few months. He helped Oscar de la Hoya prepare for his ring battle with Fernando Vargas and said the experience gave him a lot to think about.
“I felt I won the Margarito fight but the judges saw it differently. I have been asking for this rematch for a long, long time. My promoters, Top Rank pushed it. Now Margarito has to fight me.”
Perez, whose only other loss was a 1996 decision to Olegario de Leon pushed for 12 months to get a rematch, then disposed of de Leon in the ninth round of the second fight.
“I learn from my mistakes. I know what it takes to be a world champion,” said the man who has handed surprising defeats to very tough fighters, including world-ranked David Kamau and Edgar Ruiz.
He is training at the relatively new Kronk gym in Big Bear (opened by Emmanuel Steward, owner and operator of the original Kronk in Detroit) with his trainer of six years, Tom de Francesco.
“I’m sparring with Vince Parra and a couple of local guys in Big Bear. Four rounds of sparring there are equivalent to 10 rounds sparring at sea level so you don’t want to overdo it.”
Being in Big Bear means being separated from his wife, but the fighter calls her often. He loves running in the mountains saying the cool mountain air and beautiful scenery sustain him on days he gets homesick.
Always in the back of his mind are the words of advice he got from de la Hoya.
“He tells me this is my time. To make the most of my opportunities. This is the time to redeem myself against Margarito.
“Oscar says I have to make it my fight. I have to set the pace and I have to keep the pressure on Margarito. He won’t be able to stand the heat in my kitchen.”
Right now Perez and de Francesco are staying in a cabin in Big Bear, a far cry from de la Hoya’s luxury house in Snow Summit.
“It’s not Oscar’s house where I am staying, no, no, not anywhere near as nice,” he said with a laugh. “Where I’m staying is more like no-frills. It’s like boot camp. But Oscar and his trainer Floyd Mayweather, they were so nice to me in that camp. His house is beautiful. A lovely way to train.”
When asked about Fernando Vargas and the fact that the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced last week that he tested positive for Anabolic Steroids after the de la Hoya fight, he said he was stunned by the news.
“I know Fernando since we were kids. I grew up in Oxnard and the first gym I trained at was La Colonna. He’s a good guy. A little cocky, but a good guy. I never had a problem with him but he did have the attitude a bit and the arrogance.
“One thing I will say for certain is that he is not stupid. I find it very hard to believe that he could take Steroids and not notice it. Your whole body changes. Your personality changes. Why not admit the truth? Be a man and say I messed up!“
Perez also has an issue with the fact that WBO champ Margarito claims to have been born in Mexico, when he was in fact born in Los Angeles.
“What’s wrong with LA? Why not admit he’s local? We got a genuine local California grudge match here and this one’s for the fans.
“I intend to rectify my errors this weekend. I watched Margarito’s fight with Antonio Diaz. Diaz gave him a tough fight but he is not a true welterweight.
“Margarito is going to have problems with me because I am a solid 147 pounds. Although he was stronger than Diaz, who took way too much punishment. He can’t stand in front of me like that and expect to win. It’s just not going to happen.
“I don’t think in boxing you need to take so many punches. The way for me to beat him is to keep busy and to keep moving. ”
Perez has plans for his world title belt once he relieves Margarito’s ownership of it.
“I would love to fight in San Diego, defend my world title there,” he said. “I fought there a few times and the fans are tremendous. I would love to bring the belt home and let people know, if you have a dream, never give it up. It will come true.
“Sometimes your dream may take a long time to happen. I’m living proof that no matter how long it takes, you can make it happen. This fight is for the people who believe in me.”