By Ricardo Ibarra
An intriguing welterweight clash between a one-time prospect looking to bounce back after a lengthy lay-off and a seasoned journeyman hoping to keep a current successful run going will open the 2018 season of Brian Halquist Productions’ long running ‘Battle at the Boat’ series this Friday at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington. In the 114th installment of the Pacific Northwest boxing staple, John “Action” Jackson (17-3-2, 13 KOs) will take on the durable Manuel Perez (28-12-1, 7 KOs) in what has the makings of an action packed main event.
Jackson, who at one point was a surging young prospect, is looking for a successful return to the ring after a nearly two-year long break from the sport. The 31-year-old fighter from Florida began his career unbeaten in his first seven fights, scoring all of his wins by knockout, before suffering his first loss at the hands of the vastly more experienced Armando Cordoba by eight round split decision in 2006.
He rallied back from the loss with an eight-fight string of wins, including notable victories over former world title challenger Reynaldo Hurtado (TKO 1, 2007) and former NABF 122 lbs. title holder Ricardo Medina (UD8, 2009), but his run was halted in 2010 with a six round draw against Willshaun Boxley. Two consecutive losses followed, first a five round defeat against Eusebio Osejo in a bid for the interim WBA-NABA Jr. lightweight strap in March of 2011, and then an eight round unanimous decision loss one month later to Casey Ramos, who at the time was an unbeaten rising prospect. Since then, Jackson has gone 2-0-1 in his last three fights, with his most recent assignment coming against former USBA lightweight title-holder Tyrone Harris in May of 2016, whom he defeated with a six round unanimous decision.
Meanwhile Perez, a professional since 2004 and a veteran of forty-one fights, will bring a three-fight win-streak and a wealth of experience against world-class level opposition into the fight. The Denver, Colorado fighter has held the WBA-NABA 140 lbs. belt, the WBC Latino Jr. welterweight strap, the WBC Continental Americas 130 lbs. championship, and the WBC Youth world featherweight title.
Over the course of his fourteen year career, he has been in the ring with a number of top-tier fighters, including former WBA world lightweight champion Brandon Rios, whom he held to a ten round majority draw in 2008 before losing to him via seventh round TKO in the rematch one year later; one-time WBC welterweight title-holder Victor Ortiz (LTKO3, 2014); former WBO Jr. welterweight titlist DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (W RTD6, 2015); and current top Jr. welterweight world title contender Jose Carlos Ramirez (LUD 10), who handed him his last loss in April of 2016 in a fight for the WBC Continental Americas 140 lbs. championship. In his most recent fight, Perez defeated Behzod Nabiev by unanimous decision last July.
Stylistically the two match up well, with Jackson demonstrating a high level of skill, good movement, and excellent counter-punching ability, and Perez known for being a cagey, aggressive-minded fighter eager to press the action. With both fighters needing a win to rekindle some momentum early in the year, this has the makings of a solid back and forth affair.
“I think the main event could be a real war,” said promoter Brian Halquist. “I’ve talked to a number of people about it that think it’ll be explosive. It’s a very interesting fight. A good up and comer against a wily veteran. I like the wily veterans because those kids, they’re not expected to win, but their experience sometimes puts them over the top. Perez has been in a lot of wars and he can make this a really tense fight. I think we’ve got a great main event.”
Jackson and Perez will meet in a ten rounder at the welterweight limit. In addition, Halquist and match-maker Andy Nance have lined up a five fight undercard, featuring regional fighters in match-ups that should deliver an exciting start to the new year in Northwest boxing.
In the semi-main event of the card, former “The Contender” reality series star Walter “2 Guns” Wright (14-4, 7 KOs) will return to the ring after almost a five-year long stretch of inactivity, taking on Medford, Oregon’s Rafael Valencia (3-8-1, 2 KOs) in a six round super middleweight fight. Wright, a former amateur stand-out and a five-time Tacoma Golden Gloves champion, was a prominent figure in the second season of the reality series on ESPN, defeating Andre Eason on the show before losing in the semi-finals to Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage, who would go on to claim the IBF Jr. middleweight championship twice. Wright, of Seattle, last fought in 2013, dropping a ten round unanimous decision to fellow “The Contender” alumnus Peter Manfredo, Jr. Valencia fought last June in his most recent outing, losing in the second round to Brandon Robinson.
Anchorage, Alaska’s Fatlum Zhuta (4-0-1, 3 KOs, 1 NC) will take on his most experienced opponent to date in a super middleweight contest, facing off with twenty-five fight veteran Eddie Hunter (10-13-2, 3 KOs). Zhuta fought once in 2017, taking a hard-fought four round split decision win over Rafael Valencia in May. Hunter, of Kent, Washington, was a well-respected journeyman in the Pacific Northwest before taking a sabbatical from the sport in 2015. The Seattle area native has faced some tough opponents over the years, including former world title challengers Dominick Wade (L TKO2, 2014), and Jesse Hart (L TKO2, 2013); and former interim WBO middleweight title holder Avantandil Khurtsidze (L TKO5, 2014). In Hunter’s last fight, he dropped an eight round unanimous decision to Lanell Bellows in April of 2015.
In a four round Jr. welterweight fight, Seattle’s Jorge Linares Montejo (2-0, 2 KOs) will look to add his third consecutive win as a pro, squaring off with Journey Newson, of Beaverton, Oregon. Linares has put on two exciting performances at the Emerald Queen Casino in the last four months, coming back from an early knockdown to stop Jesse Barich in a wildly entertaining two round fight last September, and stopping Austin Springer in the third round in November. Newson, who has a professional MMA record of 6-1, will be making his pro boxing debut.
Yakima, Washington’s Carlos Villanueva (2-3) will meet former Oregon amateur stand-out Alex Cazac (0-1) in a four rounder. Villanueva is looking to pull himself out of a three fight slump in which he lost consecutive fights in 2017, starting with Alberto Rivas (LUD 4) in May, Marquice Weston (LTKO3) in June, and ending with a spirited effort in October against John Peak (LUD4). Cazak, of Portland, lost his pro debut to unbeaten Northwest light heavyweight prospect Richard Vansiclen in October. The fight will take place in the cruiserweight division.
And in a welterweight battle, Yakima’s Eduardo Torres (1-1-1) will face Chris Varner in a scheduled four rounder. Torres is coming off an impressive performance in which he fought to a four round draw against the undefeated Steven Villalobos last November. Varner will be making his pro debut.
Doors to the I-5 showroom at the Emerald Queen Casino will open at 7 p.m. with the first bout set to kick off the card at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations and the EQC box office. For more information visit www.halquistproductions.com or the Battle at the Boat Facebook page.