Richard Perez has spent the majority of his life in or around a square usually adorned by ropes and often times crowded with people staring up from the bottom shouting instructions or staring intently to offer up a score.
It’s 10 points if you best your opponent. Nine points if you get bested. And 8 points if you get really pummeled during the allotted time that you have to dance around on the canvas surface that typically serves as the flooring inside of said square.
It’s boxing that Perez has known for the nearly all of his years on earth, and starting next month he’ll be offering up his insights to the “sweet science” to Mantecans in the first boxing-specific gym since cancer derailed Dick Hale’s Manteca Boxing Club nearly a decade ago.
“It’s just the thing that I know,” Perez said while construction crews work on finishing the back of the gym at 212 N. Main Street. “Some guys are carpenters and some guys are electricians – I’m a boxing trainer. It’s what I do. And it’s what I love.
“I like teaching that to other people.”
Perez grew up around the sport – his father taught each of his sons boxing, and one of his brothers became a Golden Gloves champion. His own career was derailed at age 13 when he was diagnosed with epilepsy but he never gave up training.
That dedication, he said, helped him learn what would later translate into a practical application with world class fighters. He became a well-known local trainer when he took Manteca boxer and local hero Tony Dominguez under his wing, and trained his only World Champion in middleweight Rodney Jones.
When Stockton MMA fighter and acclaimed jiu-jitsu fighters Nick and Nate Diaz asked him to teach them what he knew, he initially resisted. He agreed to train Nick in his fight against known puncher “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler in the hopes that he’d have a puncher’s chance when the fight was standing.
He knocked him out with one of the sport’s most famous right hooks of all time.
Throughout the course of their training, Perez helped Nick Diaz transform his stand-up game into one of the most feared in professional cage fighting. He became known for throwing not just power-packed shots intended to knock his opponent out, but lots of quick, fast and telegraphed shots that wore his opponents out over time – allowing him to stop fights with flurries or take them to the ground and use his jiu-jitsu to end the fight.
And that portion of his career took time.
Perez just recently retired after 35 years as the head custodian at French Camp Elementary School, and his training schedule meant spending anywhere from three to five hours a night inside of sweaty, stank gyms teaching young fighters everything he knows. It meant spending weekends on the road traveling to events. It meant time away from his wife.
It was only with her support, he says, that he was able to craft the career that he has.
“You can’t do something like that without a good woman by your side,” he said. “I was gone a lot over the years. And she’s still standing by me. That means a lot.”
It might have been decades since Perez last laced up the gloves, but when he puts on the mitts and the chest protector, he still moves like a polished boxer.
His hands are lighting quick. His head moves in much the same fashion. And his steps are short and deliberate – the same kind of subtle footwork he trains his fighters to possess when they climb in through the ropes.
“I’m looking forward to what we’re able to do here,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from all over the area, and it’s been a while since Dick Hale and Manteca had something like this. I think it’s going to work out okay.”
Richard Perez Boxing is located at 212 N. Main Street, and will host its grand opening on Saturday, May 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nate Diaz, Tony Dominguez and Rodney Jones will all be on hand for the event, and refreshments, appetizers and raffle prizes will all be available. The gym itself, once it opens, will be open Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 9 p.m. For additional information call 209.858.8531.