Wilborn Stars in Role As a Heavy

February 22, 2019
Andrew Perez, right, congratulates Mario Wilborn on his heavyweight victory Thursday at the Golden Gloves. SUN/DAVID H. BROW Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Fighting in the Golden Gloves is a means of self expression.

When it comes impressionist ring artistry, Mario Wilborn is a slick boxer/puncher who can switch to an abstract form of pugilism when needed in the heat of battle.

Golden Gloves

In the biggest bout of his amateur career, Wilborn was matched up against Andrew Perez, a no-nonsense straight ahead warrior with fists of granite and a chin to match.

Soon after the opening bell sounded, Wilborn knew his game plan of relying on his height and reach advantage and lateral movement to subdue Perez, who moves around the ring like a bull in a china shop, had to be adjusted -- and the quicker the better.

In a bout where finesse was forgotten soon after the initial exchange of combinations, Wilborn, 24, and Perez, 27, held nothing back during three action packed rounds of championship boxing that were pure saloon.

Both boxers took turns testing each other’s will to win and in the end Wilborn punched his way to a hard-fought 4-1 majority decision victory over Perez in the New England Golden Gloves Novice Tournament of Champions heavyweight title bout Thursday night at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

“I’m just happy I got the decision,” Wilborn, who fell to the canvas after being declared the winner. “I was scared to death because I didn’t want to lose. It’s more like just getting my confidence up and believing in my skills. Some of it showed. But I didn’t keep him outside enough. I’ll definitely bring more to the table in future fights.

“He’s a strong guy. He landed hard shots. I was discouraged because I knew that and didn’t get the angles I wanted. He definitely had me a little stunned with his power. I wasn’t hurt, but you can still measure it just by how much it moves you.”

Wilborn, a resident of Portland, Maine, did a nice job countering as Perez, who stands 5-foot-7, tried to punch his way inside. The combatants took turns snapping punches at each other, lefts and rights, jabs and hooks. Perez, a resident of Methuen who wrestled at Lawrence High, landed some stringing shots, but Wilborn continuously landed counter blows.

“Obviously, we knew who we were going to fight and we worked on lateral movement and using that long jab,” said Wilborn’s head coach Bob Russo, who trains him at the Portland Boxing Club. “But he really didn’t do that. He made it a war. That’s not what we wanted. But he pulled it out. It was a close, close fight that could have gone either way.

“Perez is a tough guy. He applies a lot of pressure. He definitely could have made it a lot easier by using his height and reach, but it’s a great win for him. This is something he really needed.”

Perez pressed Wilborn in the final round, looking to land a home run punch. He connected with a couple of punishing right hooks.

But Wilborn held his ground, and scored with some quick-hitting combos of his own.

“What a phenomenal fight,” said Perez, who has an 11-3 amateur record. “I’m more than happy with my performance. I feel great about how I performed. I feel great about how I did out there. If the judges felt like he won, then he won.

“I reeled him in and made him fight my fight. It was rugged and on the inside with heavy blows. He was a phenomenal competitor. He was very, very hard to take out. I felt like I had him hurt, but I couldn’t finish. I have nothing bad to say about him. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, we’re both after the same dream. God bless him.”

Perez plans on learning from this toughest of defeats and becoming a better fighter.

“Not just tonight, but the whole tournament he was the smaller guy in every bout,” said Perez’s trainer Jose Madera. “That’s no excuse. The kid is a tough competitor. He went in there with the mindset that he was going to use his skill and his heart and that’s pretty much what he did. His heart got him through to the finals.”

Wilborn improved his record to 5-1 with three knockouts.

The Golden Gloves’ newest New England Novice heavyweight champion doesn’t plan on changing his style. But he will continue doing whatever it takes to win in the ring.

“I want to be more of a purebred boxer,” said Wilborn. “I shouldn’t ever be in a position where I get hit that much. But I did enough to get the decision.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi