It wasn't so long ago that Vernon Paris was considered a prospect who was on the rise in the junior welterweight division.
But after an impressive streak of 29 fights without a defeat, Paris was stopped by Zab Judah in a March 2012 title elimination bout.
Paris (27-1, 16 KOs) now finds himself in a must-win situation as he looks to continue his comeback on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" (10 p.m. ET) in a welterweight bout against Manuel Perez (19-8-1, 4 KOs) from the Masonic Temple in Detroit.
Perez, a native of Hawaii who resides in Denver, has more experience and toughness than his record might suggest. The 28-year-old Perez, who won three of his four fights in 2012, enters a bout in his opponent's backyard with plenty of experience against high-end competition.
Perhaps the most important moment of Perez's career was the draw he managed against Brandon Rios in 2008 (he went on to lose the rematch by KO). He also has victories over Jose Miguel Cotto, Edgar Santana and Aaron Melgarejo, while having been defeated by the likes of Paul McCloskey, Mercito Gesta and Diego Magdaleno.
Perez is an aggressive fighter with a closed guard and not the type who expects to be backing up for any length of time. He also is able to absorb a lot of punishment while waiting to throw his hook at close range, which is how he scored a points victory against Cotto in July 2012.
Paris, meanwhile, is a stylish fighter who regulates his fighting pace very well and feels comfortable punching from distance. The 25-year-old Detroit native has been able to surprise his foes by entering enemy space with flurries from his powerful right hand. He behaves like a sniper in his desire to strike with measured punches, which can become a problem against faster fighters when he neglects his own defense in the process. Judah was able to overwhelm Paris against he ropes before finishing him in the ninth round.
Friday’s fight presents a likely scenario that involves Perez chasing Paris all over the ring. The local fighter will surely set the distance with his jab and footwork while he executes target practice from the outside. It is difficult to expect a toe-to-toe exchange, where Paris runs several risks. It is also difficult to predict a knockout, with the likely verdict a decision victory for Paris.
Nevertheless, Paris will have to watch his physical endurance very carefully as he looked drained against Judah late in their fight. He also will have to overcome the pressure of being the local fighter and the responsibility of winning at any cost if he wishes to restore the expectations placed on him before his defeat at the hands of Judah.
In Friday's co-main event, junior lightweights Cornelius Lock (20-6-1, 13 KOs) and Lonnie Smith (14-4-2, 10 KOs) square off in a 10-round bout. Lock has lost against opponents of the caliber of Mickey Garcia and Daniel Ponce de Leon, but he owns a fifth-round knockout against Orlando Cruz in 2009.
Smith, who enters the bout on a three-fight winless streak, is a fighter with an aggressive style who knows how to put on a show. He has important victories against Eduardo Arcos, David Rodela and Lowell Brownfield, while he has lost recently against Mason Menard and Vicente Escobedo.