Sweet Victory on Valentine’s Day
LOWELL -- In the biggest fight of his life, Andrew Perez was fighting for a cause.
Perez is a former Lawrence High wrestler who has made the switch from pinning down wins with half-nelsons on the mat to landing a powerful sledgehammer jab in the ring. He will always be Lawrence strong when it comes to the success he has experienced in this sweetest of sciences.
So it was only natural the city that Perez, 27, holds dear to his heart, along with his daughter, Audree, who celebrated her fifth birthday on this Valentine’s Day, were front and center in his thoughts while celebrating a win that has him on the brink of a New England title.
Perez won a hard-fought 4-1 decision over Odolphe Felix, 18, a lanky boxer with quick hands from Brockton, in a New England Golden Gloves Novice Tournament of Champions heavyweight semifinal bout at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Thursday night.
The win improved Perez’s amateur record to 11-2. Felix made a strong showing in his amateur debut.
“I feel so good,” said Perez, who dedicated the victory to Audree. “I feel so happy for the city of Lawrence. I live in Methuen right now, but I fight out of the city of Lawrence at the Intenze 978 Boxing Gym.
“I was representing Lawrence. I’m so proud to win this fight for Lawrence. I want to show the kids out there on the streets that if they work hard, and they dedicate themselves, and they’re passionate about something, they can achieve anything they want.”
Felix had the height and reach advantage on Perez, who stands 5-foot-7. Early on Felix kept Perez at bay, by sticking and moving, landing punches with both hands. Eventually, Perez bulled his way inside by establishing the jab. Once Perez got in tight it negated Felix’s punching ability. The majority of combinations to the body that Perez landed came off his jab.
“He was a very tough competitor,” said Perez. “He made it very difficult for me to get on the inside. He has a very sharp jab, and good footwork. As a smaller guy I have to work on cutting off the ring and getting to the body.”
Perez continued to press forward with his jab leading the way in the second and third rounds. Both fighters had a difficult time putting combinations together working at close quarters. But Perez managed to free his hands long enough to score with some body shots. To his credit, Felix never backed down, landing several clean hooks.
When the decision was announced, Felix didn’t see things the same way the judges did and let Perez know how he felt. There was an exchange of words but order was quickly restored.
“He did a good job,” said Felix’s trainer, Mike Cappiello. “It was his first fight ever. That guy he fought has some experience. I’m proud of him. He put some punches together.
“I thought he did enough to win. The judges didn’t see it that way and he got a little upset. I tried to keep him calm, but it happened. He’s got a good future.”
The immediate future for Perez includes a bout for the New England Novice heavyweight championship against Mario Wilborn of Portland, Maine next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium.
“We knew going in we had to get on the inside,” said Perez’s trainer, Jose Madera. “The guy he fought was lanky and had good footwork. Once he got inside and began hitting the body I think it slowed him down.
“He’s very disciplined. He has a great work ethic. He works a full-time job. He’s a father. He trains two or three hours a day. He puts in the extra time it takes to win.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi
NEW ENGLAND GOLDEN GLOVES
at Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Jeriel Goss (Bridgeport, CT) dec. Morgan Berard (Waterville, ME)
Delvon Trice (Hartford, CT) dec. Jordan Smith (Charlestown)
Micael Dos Reis (Whitman) dec. Jamil MacMillan (Winowski, VT)
Cesar Collado (Danbury, CT) dec. Nathan Nappi (Portland, ME)
Ryan Pietrantonio (Everett) dec. Jacob Knowles (Canaan, ME)
Raul Cruz (Hartford, CT) dec. Alex Driscoll (Whitman)
James Maner (Johnston, R.I.) dec. Ryland Ford (Springfield)
Atebezi Erick Fonge (Lynn) dec. Cody Zombeck (Rochester, N.H.)
Anthony Farraiolo (New Haven, CT) RSC Matthew Delaney (Centerville), 1:04 2nd
Andrew Perez (Lawrence) dec. Odolphe Felix (Brockton)
Mario Wilborn (Portland, ME) RSC Dante Rivera (East Hartford, CT), 1:58 1st
Adrian Pinheiro (Lynn) dec. Emmanuel Anaele (Brockton)
Emily Jones (Woburn) dec. Stevie Coleman (Hartford, CT)