An Exclusive ESB Interview with Highly Regarded Bantamweight Contender Yonnhy Pérez
By Jaime Castro-Núñez - Santa Fe Springs, in Southern California, is well-known for its magic blend of inhabitants and shops. More than 3,000 businesses serve a population of 18,000 residents. Located 15 miles east to downtown Los Ángeles, the city is not only a commercial bunker for those who love trading, but also a relaxing place for those who enjoy nature. In fact, local authorities take pride of the city’s 100 acres of recreation space, green zones and parks. Los Nietos Park, on 11143 Charlesworth Road, is the perfect place to discover a new author, compose a song, think about personal issues or heat the neurons trying to resolve a trigonometry problem. The park breathes peace and in a normal day the soft breeze that constantly hits the green trees is the only thing allowed to interrupt the silence that prevails in the neighborhood. At the southwest corner of the park there is a beige, two-story construction, the Santa Fe Springs Activity Center, where dozens of young men work out and play basketball. Upstairs there is a nicely-equipped boxing gym, whose punching bags have witnessed the rapid ascend of Colombian boxer Yonnhy Pérez..
When Yonnhy stepped into the Santa Fe Springs Activity Center for the very first time, he was just the new kid inked by Thompson Boxing Promotions and by the time he fell into the hands of trainer Daniel Zamora, he was already a prospect. During the next twelve months the punching bags would see the prospect training every single day, silently, ignoring what was ahead for the bantamweight kid. At the beginning of 2007 Daniel Zamora had the certainty his pupil could one day reach the top, but some questions remained unanswered. On March 24, 2007, after the first fight against Óscar “Pajarito” Andrade, Yonnhy gave Zamora the rest of the answers he needed to envision the future. “That night I realized Yonnhy was the real deal,” Zamora told me last Friday, April 3, when I caught him and Yonnhy Pérez training for his upcoming fight next May 29 in Johannesburg against Silence Mabuza, an IBF title eliminator in which the vacant IBO bantamweight belt will be at stake.
From 1:00 to 3:00 PM a saw Yonnhy Pérez working out, hitting the bags and sparring with Walter Sarnoi, a young prospect undefeated in three professional bouts. After the training session, Yonnhy Pérez and Daniel Zamora very kindly talked with ESB. Here is part of the conversation.
Jaime Castro-Núñez: Yonnhy, thanks for granting us this interview…
Yonnhy Pérez: No problem Jaime, my pleasure.
JCN: Let´s start from the beginning. How did you entered into boxing?
YP: I started to box at the age of eight. My father recalls that I was a problematic kid, that I was always fighting on the streets, at school, everywhere! My father loves boxing and he used to take my brother and me to watch boxing, until the day I told him I wanted to go to the gym and box. He refused, but I insisted every day and eventually he took me to Humberto Caraballo Coliseum in Cartagena.
JCN: Who taught you the basics of boxing?
YP: My first trainer was Rafael Núñez. With him I made eight fights, unbeaten. After that I fell into the hands of Enrique Román-Urriola and Rubén Mendoza. Later I served in the Colombian Armed Forces, where I kept boxing under the supervision of professor Elías Pastrana. Upon leaving the Army I trained with Alfonso “The Olympian” Pérez. Currently my trainer is Daniel Zamora.
JCN: What can you tell about your amateur path?
YP: My amateur career was very extensive because it was prohibited for me to fight professionally since I was in the Army. I was a five-time national amateur champion. I represented Colombia in Bolivarian Games, Pan-American, Central-American, World Championships, and many more competitions. The Olympic Games were the only tournament I did not have the chance to attend. My amateur record is 226-17, for a total of 243 fights.
JCN: When did Yonnhy Pérez decide to turn pro?
YP: I decided to fight as a pro in 2005 due to an opportunity I had to come to the US. There was a point in my life where I wanted to make a living out of boxing, I wanted to make money and provide for my family. I do not want my kids to be in this hard sport, I want them to go to college, earn a degree and make a better life for themselves.
JCN: You signed a contract with Thompson and they relocated you to California. What did your family say about that?
YP: They supported me. I talk a lot with my father and he approved my decision. I usually do not talk about boxing with mom because she does not understand the sport, but she knows I do this because I love it. My wife also supported me, she knows the situation and this is for our future.
JCN: What do you remember about your professional debut?
YP: That it was in Tucson against Steve Lozoya and that I won by knockout in the first round.
JCN: Of all your professional fights, which one has been the toughest?
YP: The one I had against “Pajarito” Andrade, the first time.
JCN: How is your relationship with Daniel Zamora?
YP: Excellent! He is not only my trainer, but also my friend, like a father.
JCN: How is a normal day for you?
YP: I wake up very early in the morning, run a couple of miles, eat breakfast, take a shower and at noon I come to the gym. Then I go home, eat, watch TV and make a phone call to my family in Colombia.
JCN: Yonnhy, how do you feel for the fight against Silence Mabuza?
YP: I feel happy and very motivated because this is the opportunity I have been waiting for. I believe that on May 29 I have to demonstrate all I have been doing at the gym with Daniel Zamora, Walter Sarnoi and this kid Rubalcava.
JCN: Should you defeat Mabuza, what would be next for you?
YP: This is an IBF title eliminator, so after this bout I expect to fight for the championship.
JCN: Are you ready for the big moment?
YP: Yes, I’m ready!
JCN: Is there any name you want to fight?
YP: I’m prepared for anybody, but I leave that up to my promoters.
Questions to Daniel Zamora
JCN: Daniel, I really appreciate your time. Thank you!
DZ: Thanks for coming. I am glad to know that we are having the exposure we deserve.
JCN: How is training going so far?
DZ: Training is fine. We have to start slow due to the fact that the fight was postponed. Starting next week we will intensify, we go little by little.
JCN: The fight against Mabuza was originally scheduled for April 18, but it was postponed. What happened?
DZ: Due to elections out there in South Africa. Apparently there were some conflicts with the TV. This is a big fight there, so they did not want any distraction. They will have the elections first and then they will concentrate on the fight.
JCN: Is Yonnhy ready for big things?
DZ: He is ready! He is such a dedicated fighter, trains hard, shows always on time. Definitely he knows what he is working for.
JCN: Who has given Yonnhy his toughest fight to date?
DZ: “Pajarito” Andrade. That was a real test man. Andrade always comes to fight, throws a lot of punches. That night I realized Yonnhy was the real deal.
JCN: Daniel and Yonnhy, once again, thanks for your time and I wish you guys the best…
DZ: No problem. Thank you very much.
YP: Thanks to you and ESB for this opportunity.
After showing gratitude for the interview, the NABF bantamweight titlelist shook my hands, autographed a pair of boxing gloves for my personal collection and went downstairs to take a shower. It has been a long way for the former Colombian Forces soldier, who at 30 believes he is ready for the championship match. The punching bags have been so close to Yonnhy that saying they can actually smell his sweat would not be a mere literary resort. The punching bags have seen Yonnhy the prospect, Yonnhy the hot prospect, Yonnhy the contender, and Yonnhy the highly regarded contender. It has not been easy, but the punching bags inside Los Nietos Park in Santa Fe Springs are, like many people, anxiously waiting for Yonnhy the bantamweight champion of the world.
In Colombia I would like to thank trainers Orlando Pineda and Alfonso Pérez, who put me in close contact with Yonnhy Pérez. In the USA I want to thank trainer Daniel Zamora and Thompson Boxing Promotion officials for making this interview possible.
Article posted on 06.04.2009
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