Broner, 22, of Cincinnati, Ohio, has been the focus of attention in the United States when it comes to the 130-pound division; his last three bouts have all been televised by HBO and he has been well-favored to win all three of those contests. Against Perez, Broner is currently a 5-to-1 favorite to defend the WBO belt he won against overmatched Argentine Vicente Rodriguez in November. Perez was actually considered to fill that slot, but his team decided to wait for a better opportunity, a smart move in hindsight.
“We definitely didn't want to go into a situation where everything was favored towards him, in his backyard or on his terms,” said Sam Garcia, who co-trains Eloy alongside his father Max as well as Dean Familton. “We wanted something to where it was a little more even, time to prepare, time to get our media push out there, time to get enough training and enough sparring setup. It's worked out perfect.”
Being an avid poker player in his own time, Sam Garcia knows the importance of going into a situation where the chips aren't stacked in your opponent's favor. In November, Eloy would have been going to Cincinnati without a proper training camp to prepare. Having passed on the fight, they now got two extra camps, which both Eloy and his team feel could be the deciding factor.
“This camp was awesome,” said Eloy to TQBR following a sparring session at Oakland, Calif.'s King's Gym. “I've sparred with some great champs in the past: Brandon [Rios], Robert [Guerrero], Shane [Mosley]. These guys here are hungry, too. They're young, they're hungry, and they're fast. They're as fast as me, they're bigger than me, and they're making me work. It's not like I'm taking over. We're going at it. This training camp has been a blessing. I have variety here.”
“If we could draw up one camp to get ready for a guy like Adrien Broner this would be it,” he said. “Mike Dallas, Jr. is a great prospect, a great contender himself. He brings it everyday, he doesn't want anyone to get the best of him. That's what we want, good competitive sparring, guys like Stan Martyniouk, big guys, strong guys that are trying to get to the next level.”
Dallas earned his own big victory this past weekend, as he shutout Cleveland southpaw Miguel Gonzalez in short notice in the headlining fight of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. With Dallas's help, Perez hopes to bring another victory against Ohio to fighters who have worked out of King's.
“The one thing I've really appreciated is having Mike Dallas my last two fights,” said Perez. “He's been preparing me for this fight. He's been my golden egg. He brings the best out of me. He goes hard. I just want to say Mike is probably the best thing to happen to me in that time. He's the reason I'm the fighter I've been the last two fights and he's the reason why I'm going to beat Adrien Broner.”
Eloy, who signed with Golden Boy Promotions in March 2010, has been treated like the red-headed stepchild of the promotional juggernaut, particularly following the dismissal of Mosley from the firm when he decided to pursue a payday against Manny Pacquiao with rival Top Rank in 2011. By many accounts, it was at Mosley's urging that Perez was signed as the former pound-for-pound great had a close tie to the young fighter and his management team, Salinas, Calif.'s Garcia Boxing.
While Broner has more or less been guided to a world title without much adversity, Perez has made the most of his limited exposure. It could be the intangible that goes undervalued the most heading into Saturday. If you ask Eloy and his team, he has no doubt had it tougher than Broner.
“I learned more on my journey than he did. I had ups and downs," he said. "I got here because of my hard work and dedication and my great team I have around me. I feel like everyone around me understands my hard work and my grind, and Adrien Broner was lucky to have that opportunity, to have that easy road to a title. That's why I am going to beat him, because I want it more. I feel like between me and him, I have sacrificed more.”
When asked how he felt about the difference in treatment Eloy has received in comparison to Broner, Garcia didn't seem too upset.
“We have no control over those kinds of things," he said. "We've done everything Golden Boy has asked us to do. My mom, Kathy Garcia, has guided his career the best way she can; she got him TeleFutura dates, she got him dates against guys that we think we can step up, who we could look good against and improve against. In the end, that is all you can ask for.”
“That is the way the cards were dealt, his were better than mine,” opined Perez. “But I think good things take time, so I think my legacy is going to last longer.”
If he is able to stifle the momentum of Broner on Saturday and come away with the win, it will be regarded as an early candidate for Upset of the Year. Those who have followed Eloy for the last few years are shrewder when it comes to gauging his true odds at winning. Despite not carrying heavy knockout numbers, Perez has begun to sit down on his punches more than before. That undeniably has helped lead him to stoppages in his last two wins, which includes a 2nd round stoppage of the usually durable Daniel Jimenez in September in Perez's adopted home of Salinas.
It wasn't until the Jimenez fight that many outside of Salinas and the surrounding area felt Perez was a true contender. After compiling a 7-0-1 in his home state of Washington, Perez joined up with Garcia Boxing and has never looked back. In those five years, Eloy has gone 16-0-1 under their tutelage. Trained by father and son Max and Sam, his career is guided by manager Kathy, and the team has put 100% of themselves into Eloy as of 2009.
Guiding only one fighter has worked out well for both Eloy and Garcia Boxing. Though wins over David Rodela and then-undefeated Dannie Williams have come away from the bright lights of television -- and thus, kept his name under the radar -- they have helped impart priceless experience.
Whether or not that experience will be a deciding factor Saturday will soon be found out. With Takashi Uchiyama and Takahiro Ao both being holders of alphabet straps, this fight won't likely determine the world's best junior lightweight. What is at stake for both Broner and Perez is the claim of being America's best junior lightweight. For a fighter who was once 8-0-2 against modest opposition, Perez knows he has achieved something that few thought he could.
“You never think you're going to make it this far," he said. "A lot of fighters make it to 20-0, 15-0, and they never get that opportunity to fight for that title. So much can happen; you lose, you get sidetracked with personal problems, you never think you are gonna get there. I just went with the flow and just did what I was supposed to do and it lead me here. And fortunately I was blessed and I got here.
“This is my one shot, my one chance. You only get so many opportunities in life and fortunately I've been blessed to get this opportunity. Everything that has happened in my career has been to prepare me for now.," he said.