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Fightwriter: Agbeko-Perez

By Graham Houston

After his impressive, upset win over Vic Darchinyan in July, Joseph Agbeko is back on Showtime on Saturday night to defend his IBF bantamweight title against mandatory contender Yonnhy Perez, and the fight should be a good one. I’m glad to see these talented and well-matched fighters getting the opportunity to top the bill on the first boxing event at the Treasure Island casino hotel, with Don King promoting. Agbeko, from Ghana in West Africa but now living in New York, was once one of boxing’s well-kept secrets. Now the secret’s out. The Ghanaian is a durable, crowd-pleasing boxer-fighter who seemed to handle Darchinyan much more easily than the scores suggested.

Perez is a dangerous opponent for Agbeko, though. The Colombian (now based in Santa Fe Springs, CA) brings an unbeaten record, and he scored a dramatic victory in his last fight when, behind on all three judges’ cards, he knocked out Silence Mabuza in the last round of their thrilling IBF elimination match in South Africa.

Agbeko has had more professional bouts although he is the younger man by a year, but I believe Perez was a seven-time national amateur champion in Colombia, and he was a Pan American Games bronze medallist. At 5ft 7ins, Perez is about an inch and a half taller than Agbeko and he looks the bigger-framed man.

The styles of the two fighters should make for a highly entertaining contest. Agbeko has a steady, relentless quality about him, but Perez stood up to pressure from Mabuza and although behind on the cards he was always in the fight. Perez scored well on the outside against the shorter Mabuza, but even when he was backed up on the ropes the Colombian boxer was able to rattle off combinations and it was the South African fighter who looked the worse for wear.

Mabuza had only to stand up to win in the 12th, but he went after Perez, seeking to stage an impressive finish, and walked onto a stiff left jab that sent him staggering to the canvas. I can only assume that the punishment taken in the preceding 11 rounds suddenly caught up with Mabuza.

Perez hadn’t really scored what could be called a big win before the Mabuza fight, but he had been dominating everyone he met. Agbeko has fought the higher standard of opposition — he lost a questionable decision to Wladimir Sidorenko in Germany in his only defeat, hammered Luis Alberto Perez to become IBF champion and won a gruelling, bloody war against the heavy hitting Nicaraguan southpaw William Gonzalez before upsetting the odds against Darchinyan.

I believe Agbeko’s pressure and inside fighting will give him the edge on Saturday. Mabuza was able to score well to the body against Perez and he landed right hands over the top. It was Mabuza’s fight to lose going into the last round — and he got caught when really all he needed to have done was to move around and keep out of trouble. I make Agbeko a stronger, tougher and better fighter than Mabuza and I think he will force his way into control of the contest in the later rounds to outwork Perez and outpoint him, perhaps narrowly.

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