By Dan Rafael
Heavyweight contender Mike Perez suffered a left shoulder injury in a sparring session this week, forcing him to withdraw on Friday from a title elimination bout against Bryant Jennings, the promoters announced.
Perez and Jennings were due to meet in an HBO-televised main event on May 24 at the American Bank Arena in Corpus Christi, Texas.
With the main event off indefinitely, the entire card was canceled, including the significant middleweight co-feature between former titlist Daniel Geale (30-2, 16 KOs), 33, of Australia and longtime contender Matthew Macklin (30-5, 20 KOs), 31, of England.
“I was floored when I got the call this morning from Perez’s manager, Patrick Thomas, that he injured his shoulder in sparring,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, Perez’s promoter. “Mike is flying back to Ireland to see a shoulder specialist. I’m hoping to hear good news that the injury is not too serious and the fight can be rescheduled in the near future. I know Mike is devastated because of this setback but looks forward to continuing his dream of marching toward a WBC world title fight.”
Vitali Klitschko vacated his version of the heavyweight title in December and retired, leaving Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola to fight for the vacant belt on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET) at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
The winner is required to make back-to-back mandatory defenses under the WBC’s rules. Deontay Wilder, the 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medal winner, is up first and will face the winner next. The fighter who emerges the winner from Stiverne, Arreola and Wilder will be due to face the winner of Jennings-Perez in his next bout.
“When I received the news this afternoon that Perez got injured I felt so bad for Bryant because I know how hard he trained for this fight and how much he was looking forward to fighting for this WBC elimination bout,” Gary Shaw, Jennings’ promoter, said. “I hope that Perez’s injury is minor and we can get these guys back in the ring in a timely manner.”
Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs), 29, of Philadelphia, had a breakout year in 2012 with five nationally televised victories.
He only fought once in 2013, but opened this year strong with an HBO-televised 10th-round knockout of previously undefeated Artur Szpilka.
Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs), 28, a former Cuban amateur standout who defected to Ireland and turned pro in 2008, has fought his past two fights on the big HBO stage.
In November, he won a 10-round decision in a brutal fight against Magomed Abdusalamov, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fight and — after spending a month in a coma — is in a rehabilitation clinic unable to speak or move much. Dedicating his next fight to Abdusalamov, Perez returned in January and fought Carlos Takam to a 10-round draw.