By Ricardo Ibarra
Photos by Mike Blair/Boxingprospects.net
Kicking off the 2018 season of Brian Halquist Productions’ long-running ‘Battle at the Boat’ series, Colorado journeyman Manuel Perez (29-12-1, 7 KOs) claimed his fourth consecutive win on Friday night at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, scoring a ten round decision victory over Florida’s John Jackson (17-4-2, 13 KOs).
Perez was the busier and more aggressive fighter throughout the fight, overcoming an early round knockdown to take the win on all three judges’ scorecards in the Jr. welterweight main event.
Perez moved in and out of the pocket well in the first round, picking his spots with spurts of aggression as Jackson worked behind his jab. The round was close, but Perez’ higher activity level gave him the edge. Perez appeared to be well on his way to winning the second round also using the same approach when a hard left hook counter caught him as he was coming in, sending down for a count. Perez made up quickly and didn’t appear hurt by the punch, but it changed his approach to the fight.
In the third Perez amped up his aggression, clearly feeling the need to make up the lost point in the previous round, pressing hard with a sustained attack. Mid-way through the round a left hook appeared to daze Jackson. Perez kept up his pace in the fourth and into the fifth, digging to the body with solid hooks and coming back upstairs with right and left hooks. Jackson, who up to this point had been working hard to set the range with his jab, began to find some success in the sixth round, snapping his one-twos from the outside and angling away from Perez’ attack in the pocket to create openings for his counters.
Perez wrestled back control of the pace in the seventh, stepping up his output and maintained it into the eighth round. Jackson rallied back in the early in the ninth as Perez slowed, catching him often with hard counter right hands, but Perez closed strong forcing the fight in close in the last round. The official scores read 99-92, 97-92, and 96-93, giving Perez his twenty-ninth win and his fourth straight since his decision loss to rising contender Jose Ramirez in April of 2016.
After the fight, Perez broke down his performance. “I give myself a C, I’ll be honest. I was a little rusty after only fighting once last year, so we wanted to get a fight early this year. I’m glad we did. We had a very durable opponent. The flash knockdown in the second round, he didn’t catch me clean, but he did catch me. So, we have a lot to work on. There’s so much more I can do. I wasn’t putting my punches together like I would’ve liked. If we’re going to push to the next level and be a contender and look for another title shot, we got to mix it up better. We’ve got a lot to do so I’m not going to give myself too much credit. I got the victory but there is more we can do.”
Jackson, meanwhile, suffers his fourth loss in his first fight since May of 2016.
Promoter Brian Halquist and matchmaker Andy Nance lined up a five-fight undercard for the 114th installment of the series, featuring fighters from around the Pacific Northwest.
After almost five years away from the ring former “The Contender” reality series participant Walter “2 Guns” Wright (15-4, 7 KOs) stepped back into the ring in the semi-main event, claiming a six round unanimous decision win over Medford, Oregon’s Rafael Valencia (3-9-1, 2 KOs). Wright put on a workman like performance over the course of the six round fight, patiently using his jab to set up occasional left hooks to the body for the first few rounds, and slowly upping his output as the rounds wore on. Valencia was a game fighter, pressing Wright back to the ropes on a few occasions, but the difference in skill level and experience was clear. By the fifth round Wright was slamming Valencia with hard left hooks and snapping back his head with solid rights. In the sixth Wright came out looking to do damage, pressing forward with hard right hands and lead left hooks, but Valencia showed his toughness, hanging in and trying to fire back, even as he was taking shots and streaming blood from his nose. The official tallies all read 60-54, giving Wright his fifteenth career win. The bout was fought in the super middleweight division.
Anthony Zender (1-0), of Lacey, Washington, made his first appearance as professional boxer in a Jr. welterweight bout, handing Seattle’s Jorge Linares Montejo (2-1, 2 KOs) his first defeat via four round unanimous decision. Zender, who’s background is in MMA, employed an intelligent attack early in the fight, sitting back and letting his aggressive opponent get in close then countering. Late in the opening round a counter right hand dropped Linares to a knee. Zender continued to land effectively in the second, hurting Linares with a left hook. Linares began to fight with more of a sense of urgency in the third, stepping up his aggression and finding his mark with hard combinations in close, trading heavily with Zender. In the final round the two fighters unloaded in close, slamming each other with heavy artillery, closing out the fight in vicious fashion. All three judges scored the fight for Zender with scores of 38-36.
In a Jr. middleweight match-up, Wapato, Washington’s Eduardo Torres (2-1-1, 1 KO) claimed his first win inside the distance, stopping Chris Varner (0-1) in the first round. Varner had the crowd anticipating a longer fight after he stormed into the ring and got in his opponent’s face before the fight began and continued to chide him from his corner during prefight introductions. He kept up his bravado as the first bell sounded, rushing at Torres and unloading wildly with looping punches. Torres quickly exploited his foe’s wild aggression and connected with a precise right-hand counter, rocking him momentarily. Torres found his mark a few more times with his right before a left hook dropped him hard. Referee Louis Jackvony had seen enough, calling a halt to the fight at :42 of the round.
Fatlum Zhuta (5-0-1, 4KOs 1 NC), of Anchorage, Alaska, scored an emphatic first round win in a super middleweight clash, knocking out Seattle’s Eddie Hunter (10-14-2, 3 KOs) seconds into the opening round. It was bombs away from the start with both fighters unloading with heavy shots. Zhuta was the first to do damage, zoning in with a right hand that buckled Hunter. Zhuta quickly followed up, cracking Hunter with a vicious right hand-left hook combo that sent him crashing to the canvas, where he would stay. Referee Louis Jackvony called the fight at :39 of the round as Hunter struggled to get up.
Yakima, Washington’s Carlos Villanueva (3-3) scored his first win in four fights in the card’s opener, taking a closely contested four round split decision victory over Alex Cazac (0-2), of Portland. Villanueva kept a busy work-rate in the first two rounds, closing the distance often and landing at a higher rate. Cazac, who did better when he could work from a longer distance, found success in the third round setting the range with long one-twos and hard straight rights. Villanueva came on early in the fourth, stepping in close and working hard to the head and body, but Cazac rallied late, making for a close final round. One of the judges preferred Cazac’s longer-ranged work, scoring the fight for him at 39-37, with the other two judges favoring Villanueva’s busy attack in close, scoring the fight for him at 39-37, giving him the nod and his third win as a professional. The bout was contested in the cruiserweight division.
The Halquist Productions team set a good tone with this first show of the year, delivering an exciting card to kick off what will be a busy twelve months for the promotion. The next Battle at the Boat is scheduled for March 17th.