- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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As an amateur fighter, Darley Perez was a 2008 Olympian for his native Colombia. As a professional, he is undefeated but a bit too old to still be called a prospect and not proven enough yet to be called a contender.
But now that Perez (28-0, 19 KOs) is taking on fellow unbeaten (but far more experienced) Yuriorkis Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) on June 8 (HBO) at the Bell Centre in Montreal on the undercard of light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson's defense against Adonis Stevenson, we ought to get some answers about just how good Perez can be as a pro.
Gamboa, after all, was a Cuban Olympic gold medalist in 2004 and has won two pro world titles at featherweight and an interim title at junior lightweight. Now Gamboa is moving up in weight again, this time to lightweight, where he will face Perez.
"I wouldn't dare take Gamboa lightly," said Perez, 29, who has fought primarily in the United States since 2010. "I'll train hard for a tough fight and he'd be well-advised to do the same because I'm a top fighter. I will prove to everyone that I am a world-class fighter and the rest of the world will figure out what I already know after June 8th."
Gary Shaw, who co-promotes Perez with Thompson Boxing, said they have been patient trying to get Perez this kind of high-profile fight and are confident he will make the most of it.
"You have to understand that we've been waiting on an opportunity like this for Perez to make his mark," Shaw said. "Some may feel like it is Darley's chance to pull off the shocking upset, but I see it as more of a coming-out party. We've had him caged in waiting for the chance to unleash the beast and we could've pulled the trigger a couple fights back and then the world would be aware of his chances in this fight. But because we knew that an opportunity like this was only a matter of time we waited and now he will show he's been a top contender all along."
Gamboa, 31, who is promoted by rap star Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, will be fighting for only the second time since his dominant eighth-round technical decision against Daniel Ponce De Leon in Sept. 2011. In his last fight, Gamboa looked a bit shaky in a decision win against Michael Farenas in December to claim an interim belt at 130 pounds on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV undercard.
Gamboa sees the fight with Perez as a steppingstone to winning another world title, this one at lightweight.
"I keep looking to prove my worth and will now do so in trying to win a fourth world title in a third weight class, the lightweight division," Gamboa said. "I like challenging myself [and] June 8th I plan on showing my best yet again."