By Chris Cella
Tomorrow night on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, former undefeated welterweight prospect Vernon “Iceman” Paris (27-1, 16 KO) will look to reestablish himself as a top fighters as he squares off against Manuel “Manos” Perez (19-8-1, 4 KO) in a 10-round contest.
Just over 14 months ago Paris fought in an IBF light welterweight title eliminator bout—by far the biggest of his career—against Zab Judah, and was beaten down for 9 rounds before the fight was called to a halt.
Following the fight the young fighter analyzed his career, took time to make the necessary changes within his team and his training, and reemerged onto the boxing scene exactly one year after he lost to Judah. This past March he worked off any ring rust against part-time boxer and opponent Guy Packer (4-38-2) and is anxious to get back to action on the main stage of ESPN tomorrow night and show the boxing world that he is back.
“I’ve started working with my new coach, Herman Caicedo, and have been preparing for this fight ever since my last fight,” said Paris. “My new coach is good. He’s teaching me to keep my hands up. The plan—what I’m going to do in the ring—that’s all coming together. I’m feeling real good about it.”
Prior to the fight with Judah, Paris was a cocky smack talking boxer; one would imagine after the beating he suffered at the hands of Judah, where he was outmatched and picked apart by his elder, he went back to the drawing board and found some humility.
At 25-years-old Paris has the tools to be a world champion. Now a welterweight, he possesses power and good hand speed, and is an intelligent boxer. Tomorrow night fans will be able to see his new approach inside the ring under the tutelage of Caicedo, and despite his opponent’s record, Perez will be heading into the FNF main event with one thing on his mind—playing spoiler and handing Paris the second loss of his career.
At 19-8 Perez’s biggest problem through his career was winning consistently, but over the past few years has been able to win fights over quality opponents (Edgar Santana and Jose Miguel Cotto). Perez has never shied away from a fight, and can be a tricky opponent for Paris, who will be looking to get back to his winning ways against an opponent with a winning record.
“I know Paris very, very tough, and I anticipate a tough fight,” said Perez. “Those are the fights I like. I’ve said it before—you don’t become the best without fighting the best. You have to fight and beat the best. I’m working on my jab a lot now, and just want to show more variety in my shots this fight. I want to show better angles, and a better variety of right hands. I want to apply the kind of pressure and just break him down. I’m looking forward to putting on a great performance.”
Manuel Perez has nothing to lose going into this 10-round welterweight contest, whereas everything may be on the line for Paris. A loss for Paris could force the young boxer to really evaluate where he is in his career and where he is going. On the flip side, a strong, convincing win on FNF can get him a well-known opponent for his next fight, and start him on the fast track to earning another contention fight going forward in 2013.
The action begins live tomorrow night on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. Eastern.