|ESPN.com: Boxing||[Print without images]|
Rudy Perez, who trained several top fighters and was revered as a great motivator, died Thursday in Mexico City after a lengthy battle with stomach cancer.
Perez, who was 58, was best known for training former three-division champion Marco Antonio Barrera for most of his career, including for all three of Barrera's epic fights with Mexican rival Erik Morales.
Perez also worked with fighters such as Israel Vazquez, Marcos Maidana, Pablo Cesar Cano, Hernan "Tyson" Marquez, Adrian Hernandez and Jorge Barrios.
"Rudy was one of those trainers who wasn't as famous as many others, but he was a very patient trainer," said Robert Diaz, the Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker, who previously spent years working with Barrera and got to know Perez well. "I would consider him like a second father. He was so kindhearted. He called my kids his grandchildren.
"As a trainer, he was the kind of trainer who went out to run with his fighters, he'd diet with his fighters. He would eat whatever Marco would eat. He wasn't a trainer who would sit there and eat a steak or a hamburger while the fighter was dieting and eating a salad. He didn't believe in too many rounds of sparring for his fighters because he wanted them fresh and not hurt going into the fight."
Frank Espinoza, Vazquez's longtime manager, got to know Perez well when he came on board to train the now-retired Vazquez in 2007.
"We had a great relationship. He was a great man, a great friend and he will be missed," Espinoza said. "He was a great trainer and a great motivator. He was the type of guy you wanted in your guy's corner. I'll really miss this guy. He was a team player."
Perez was in Maidana's corner in 2011 when he won a majority decision against Morales in a brutal fight to claim an interim junior welterweight title.
"Team Maidana is deeply sorry to hear about the passing of Rudy Perez, a great trainer and person," Maidana tweeted.
On Saturday night, Maidana stopped Josesito Lopez in the sixth round of a welterweight fight, and Maidana said Thursday that he was dedicating the victory to his former trainer.
"I dedicate that win to him," Maidana said. "Our prayers to Rudy's family. We'll always remember him. Rest his soul in peace."
Barrera, one of the great fighters in Mexican history and a surefire Hall of Famer, was just 6 when Perez began training him, Diaz said. Barrera turned pro in 1989, and Perez was by his side through all of his memorable fights, remaining with him until they split following Barrera's junior lightweight title loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2007. Barrera would fight six more times. In all, Perez was with him for 69 of his 75 pro bouts.
Perez trained Vazquez only at the tail end of his career, but it was a memorable association. He was in Vazquez's corner for the second, third and fourth fights of his historic series with rival Rafael Marquez. The second (2007) and third (2008) fights, both junior featherweight world championship fights, were named fight of the year, and Perez is given credit for motivating Vazquez late in the third fight, in which he won the 12th round and escaped with a split decision and his 122-pound world title intact.
Vazquez had lost the junior featherweight title to Marquez by seventh-round knockout in their first meeting in early 2007. It was a barn burner, and both fighters took a lot of punishment. Trainer Freddie Roach, believing Vazquez should retire, walked away. Perez took over as his trainer and was in the corner for the second and third bouts, the biggest wins of Vazquez's career, although he would be knocked out in the third round of the fourth fight in 2010, a nontitle bout at featherweight after which Vazquez did retire.
"That third fight with Marquez was a very, very close fight, and after the 11th round, Rudy literally slapped Israel in the chest in the corner," Espinoza said. "At that particular time, it motivated Israel. It pissed him off, but that made Israel go forward in that 12th round with so much intensity. He got the [knockdown] against Marquez in that round, won the round and won the fight. I believe after the 11th round that without Rudy Perez's instruction and what he did by slapping Israel, we wouldn't have won the fight. I think it gave Israel that little something extra he needed to go out and win the round and the fight. It was a great victory."
By that time, Diaz was working with Golden Boy, which promoted Vazquez-Marquez III. He also believes Perez's chest slap gave Vazquez the extra boost he needed to finish the brutal fight strong.
"He knew Israel needed that last round, and he slapped him hard on the chest and said something like, 'Why don't you just give Marquez the title?' The bell rang, and Israel came out like it was the first round," Diaz said. "I think what Rudy did really made the difference in the fight."
Perez is survived by his wife, Consuelo, and their son. Funeral services are scheduled for Friday in Mexico City.