The modern Olympics first took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The sport of boxing was added in 1904 in St Louis, Missouri, with woman’s boxing included in 2012 in London, England. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Ray Leonard, Floyd Patterson, George Foreman and Claressa Shields (1st woman) are some of the more famous names who have won gold for the United States. Abraham Perez and Sharahya Moreu would love to win gold in Tokyo, Japan next year, but first, they must make the team which is no small feat. Lake Charles, Louisiana will host the trials starting on Monday, using a double-elimination format. Perez (112 lbs.) and Moreu (152 lbs.) are both ranked second in their respective divisions. As a result of their status in amateur competition, they have to be taken seriously when the trials begin next week.
When I first saw Abraham Perez box it was in an afternoon amateur card. I was familiar with his older brother Aaron “Angel Baby” Perez a highly decorated amateur who is now (10-0-0, 6 KO’s) as a professional. The younger Perez was facing Michael Pavelko, a tough kid in his own right. I was shocked by how polished Perez was in winning a decision over Pavelko that day. I would learn afterward that Perez had over twenty-five bouts to his credit. The reason I had never seen him before was the result of his taking a couple of years off to play basketball. It can be intimidating to follow a successful older sibling in any endeavor but clearly, it had no negative effect on the younger Perez.
Perez first started fighting when he was eight years old and has been at it for twelve years minus two years as a basketball player. He is trained by Arron Perez, Sr. who happens to be his father. Abraham estimates that he has had between seventy and eighty bouts in the amateurs. Winning the national golden gloves this year was his first national title. He has captured many regional tournaments but always came up short at the national level before this year’s national Golden Gloves title. He finished second last year in the USA Boxing national tournament. “I got second place in the Eastern trials in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With every single year, I noticed I was getting better and better. All it took was time; time has to do its job.”
Abraham’s journey has taken a different route than his older brother Aaron who was hot from the very start of his career, winning a national silver mittens title in Alabama when he was sixteen. Commenting, Abraham said “We both have our own journey and they’re different from each other.
Commenting on next week, Abraham stated, “of the other seven boxers in my division, I’ve fought three of them. Fernando Martinez is from Arizona who is ranked third, I won by split decision. Hopefully this time I won’t leave it up to the judges. Another boxer I faced was Michael Angeletti who beat me by split decision last year in the national championships. He’s ranked #1 in the tournament. In the Eastern Trials, I lost to another opponent who’s a name I can’t remember. He’s ranked either fourth or fifth. I don’t consider myself a long shot, I feel I have a very good chance of winning.
The top two finishers in each division go to Tokyo, with the runner up basically serving as a sparring partner. Commenting Abraham said; “that’s something I don’t want, I don’t want to be somebody’s back up I don’t like that.” I pointed out that even that would be a good experience. He continued, “Yeah it a good experience to be up there, a possible competitor in the Olympics. I turned the discussion to the possibility of turning pro. He responded, “ I’d like to turn pro next year, hopefully after the summer Olympics because that would mean that I would have made the team.
For the record, Abraham graduated from Atrisco Heritage Academy in Albuquerque. He works for Perez Collision Center located in Albuquerque. He’s responsible for the parts department. If your wondering the business is owned by Jordan and Aaron Perez who happen to be the uncle and father respectively of our Olympic hopeful. When asked if he has a girlfriend, the answer was not at this time. If he has a gold medal hanging around his neck, I’m sure that the answer will change.
Like Abraham Perez, Sharahya Moreu is also trained by her father Yoruba Moreu. When I first saw Sharahya in competition I was watching a gangly teenager who had limited skills. That was to be expected as she had only participated in a few bouts. Her father was a taskmaster who slowly identified and eliminated her mistakes. Watching her participate in this year’s Golden Gloves finals the difference was amazing. One of the reasons for her fast learning curve was her rivalry with and another young boxer by the name of Jordanne Garcia who also lives in the “Duke City.” I believe they fought five times in the amateurs. Garcia is now a pro with a record of (4-1-1). Now instead of fighting each other, they spar with each other to prepare for future opponents. There is no doubt that this relationship has helped both girls advance their careers.
Interviewing Sharahya I found out she had her first fight when she was thirteen. It took place in Phoenix, Arizona, resulting in a second-round TKO win for her. She is now twenty having been born on May 11, 1999. I asked her how she got started in boxing and she responded “I got into trouble in the schoolyard. When my father found out he took me to a gym to spar with one of the female boxers. I took a liking to the sport but found out what tough was that day. I started training at Johnny Tapia’s, when he passed away Chris Chavez took over my training. When Chavez moved to Nevada, my dad took over as my trainer.”
I asked her when she first realized that she had some skills and she said, “When I started training for national tournaments I found out I could compete at that level. The other girls were talented but they weren’t blowing me out of the ring. When I first went to the Olympic Village in Colorado Springs, Colorado where the Olympic boxers train, it was cool because you were training with the best girls in the country. It must have paid off because Sharahya has won the Ringside tournament twice which is held in Kansas City, Missouri. Additionally, she captured the Title Nationals in Arkansas twice, The Native American Tournament, National Jr. Olympics twice in West Virginia and Texas.
I saw her bout with Oshae Jones at the National tournament this year, in which she lost a close decision. Jones went on to win the tournament and is ranked #1 in her division. I feel that Sharahya should be able to give Jones a good fight. The unknown in the tournament next week will be Mary Spencer who has done much of her boxing in Canada. She holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. Her ranking is not as high as that of Jones or Moreu but that’s the result of having so many fights in Canada. Spencer has to be one of the tournament favorites along with Jones, so Sharahya has a tough bracket to capture. Of the other seven girls in her division, Ariana Carrasco is the only other girl she has faced besides Jones.
One belief that her father has is the importance of fighting out of State. As a result, Sharahya has competed in at least six other States in addition to boxing in India and Bulgaria against girls from other European countries. Asked for a final statement, she responded: “It’s been a long journey I’ll be happy to be over with it”. As for turning pro, she would like to stay amateur a little longer to correct a few glitches.
Let’s wish Sharahya and Abraham our best next week in Lake Charles, Louisiana!!