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|Prospect Eloy Perez, 25, already is being talked about in boxing circles as a future world champion.|
The path of the undefeated prospect is usually padded by a thick layer of his competition's cushy mediocrity. But when a 25-year-old prospect can boast that his past nine opponents own a 163-26-1 combined record, it's time to pay attention. And that's the case with Eloy Perez (22-0-2, 6 KOs), a native of Rainier, Wash., now fighting out of Salinas, Calif., who will try to cap a highly successful year with an NABO super featherweight title opportunity against Ira Terry (24-6, 14 KOs) on Friday. After being praised for his work as a Shane Mosley sparring partner, receiving exposure in several Golden Boy events in Las Vegas and ultimately being named NABO fighter of the year during the WBO annual convention in Puerto Rico, the fighter they call "The Prince" will take on Terry in front of a boisterous home crowd before taking on bigger and better challenges in 2012. We caught up with "El Principe" during the final stages of his training to get his thoughts on Terry, Friday's fight and his future.
What can you tell us about your training for this fight? You have fought often this year. Does that affect your training schedule at all?
I am always taking care of myself, and I am always taking care of my weight; I never really get out of shape. I've been training like a month to get ready for this fight and I feel great -- just waiting for Friday to come.
You're a highly regarded prospect despite having relatively few pro fights. Naazim Richardson and others have called you a future world champ. Do you feel the pressure of all that scrutiny? No, I don't see it as pressure. I just focus on working and getting better, and learning the trade. I never feel that kind of pressure. I think that if you stay focused and do what you're supposed to do, then everything will come into place in time.
Your level of opponents is impressive -- mostly boxers with winning records. How soon do you think you will be ready for a title shot?
Sheesh, I am ready right now! I want that title. That's the dream of every fighter: to be a part of history, to be a world champion, and I feel like I am ready right now. Nothing is going to take that dream away from me.
Was your sparring gig with Shane Mosley a turning point for you in your career?
Oh, yeah. Shane Mosley was one of my heroes coming up. As a little kid, I used to watch him fight Oscar [De La Hoya], and he was a hero of mine. And just to be in camp with him and have him help me sign with Golden Boy, and him becoming my friend, it's just a blessing, like a great honor. But it was a great experience, and I learned a lot of how to deal with the media, how to deal with the hype. It was a great time, it was a great part of my life just to even meet Shane Mosley, to be in his camp and just spar with him.
You have a versatile style: You can box well from a distance but can also move in and fight toe-to-toe. Do you feel the need to become more of a fighter in the Mexican tradition, or do you prefer to box?
You know, I always wanted to come forward, I always wanted to bang. But you always have to crawl before you walk, and you have to walk before you run. So I feel like I learned a lot in my career, everything I went through, my draws, the people I fought, everything that got me to this point to be ready for the future. But yes, I like coming forward, and I like to box, too. The thing is, I got a lot of Mexican in me; I am from Mexico, so it's in me and it's in my blood. But I also was raised as a boxer, so I know how to box. But I think that I have my own style. I come forward, I can box, I can work round by round, and I just look forward to take everything to the next level.
You are relatively small for a junior lightweight. Do you see yourself fighting in this division for a long time?
First, I started at 130 [pounds], so I want to finish at 130. I am small, but it's like dynamite, it comes in small packages, too, and then it makes a big explosion. So I see myself making 135, but the highest I could go is probably 140 later in my career. I am small, but I can stand my ground.
You have a great fan base. How important is it to continue fighting at home during these early stages of your career, to build up your confidence?
It's always awesome to fight in my town. Just having my city behind me is great. They believe in me and I believe in them. They want me to win a world title, and that's part of what I am doing, and that's special.
Will we see anything new from you in this fight?
I am going to do whatever it takes to win. If the knockout comes, it comes. If not, I am going to work hard and finish strong, to finish a great year.
What's in store for you in the near future?
I want to stay busy and fight again in January or February, early in the year. 2012 is going to be my year to chase that title, you know. I will have a couple of fights and then I will fight for it. Now that I am so close to fighting for the title, they are going to have to knock me out [for me] to lose. That's the only way they're going to keep me away from the title.
How do you envision Friday's fight playing out?
I am not going to try to knock him out in the first rounds, but if I see the opening, I might take it. I am going to jump on him. I am in great shape and I can go for the distance, so Ira Terry better be ready for what's coming.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.