Maurice Hooker faces Terry Flanagan, puts Darleys Perez behind him

Junior welterweight Maurice Hooker (right) and Terry Flanagan. Photo courtesy of Maurice Hooker on Instagram

 

This Saturday, from the Manchester Arena, Maurice Hooker faces Terry Flanagan for the vacant WBO 140-pound title. When most fans and pundits think of Hooker, they most likely refer back to his fight against Darleys Perez in November of 2016.

 

Fighting at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Hooker was given a prime slot on the pay-per-view undercard supporting the first go-around between light heavyweights Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.

 

And on this big stage, he fell flat that night in getting what most observers believe was a gift draw against the faded Perez.

 

Some have never forgotten this night and, to many, it defined Hooker – the guy who got a very fortunate RocNation Sports decision on a night that had more than one. On this occasion, he was much more suspect than prospect.

 

When asked to explain his performance, Hooker hesitated for a few seconds before saying, “I was injured…” and it was at this time when his manager Arnie Verbeek would jump in, “(Hooker) lost his entire eardrum about a week-and-a-half before the fight and he didn’t realize it. So as the fight started, he knew something was wrong and, of course, with that eardrum missing, it wasn’t a tear; it wasn’t a puncture – it was the entire eardrum that was missing.

 

“Any type of temperature change, more than a degree or two, or any wind or loud noise, all of which is in that arena, tremendously affects your balance and your performance of the athlete. So after the fight, we did some micro-surgery, (with) one of the best doctors in the United States and they took some skin from a muscle above his ear and they rebuilt his eardrum and put it on and we tested it and it’s been in there for a couple of fights without any problems.”

 

To Hooker’s defense, he did box as though he was suffering from a mild case of vertigo, against Perez. Since that night, he has rebounded with victories over Cristobal Cruz and Courtney Jackson, winning 10-round decisions in both bouts.

 

Hooker, who hails from Dallas, Texas, insists that the guy we saw versus Perez was not him.

 

“No, it wasn’t,” he stated. But to fans, you are whom your performances say you are. The perception is that Hooker simply isn’t all that good, based on what they saw that particular night. When asked if that bothered him, Hooker responded, “No, it doesn’t, right now I have the chance to shock everybody when I get in the ring with Terry Flanagan and they’re going to see the 100 percent Maurice Hooker in the ring.”

 

In “Turbo” Flanagan, the former WBO lightweight beltholder, Hooker is facing a technically sound, well-schooled southpaw boxer.

 

“He’s got quick feet but, everything else, he’s normal,” said Hooker, 23-0-3 (16). “He’s got a little speed and quick feet. Take that away from him and I’m going in for the knockout.” Hooker also made this clear: “I’ve seen better, like Terence Crawford or Errol Spence. I’ve been in the ring with better fighters than him. He’s alright but he’s nothing special to me.”

 

However Hooker is facing Flanagan on his home turf, which certainly is an advantage for the latter. But Hooker insisted, “Once I get in the ring, I’m going to have tunnel vision. I’m going to block the crowd out and only focus on Terry Flanagan. It’s just me and him in the ring.”

 

This interview took place last week, as Hooker and his camp were at a layover in Philadelphia, on their way to England, which included his trainer, Vince Parra, who is still irked by the Perez fight and how Hooker is perceived as a result. “We’d been knocking out sparring partners in camp and he was doing so good,” he said before the injury occurred.

 

“I’ll take a little bit of blame for that myself because we had so much. He’d been knocking everybody out. I said, ‘Y’ know what? This is a minor thing,’ and we let him go through with it. After the first round, I knew what was wrong but, at that point, you just have to deal with it,” said Parra.

 

And Parra was just getting started: “Y’ know, in the United States, here in America, we love to tear down guys and I’ve watched that fight about two dozen times, a lot of times with the sound off, and I saw my guy really dig deep because I know how badly hurt he was and he kept a former world champion at bay. And people say, ‘Oh, he got schooled’ but, being as objective as I can be, I couldn’t see that guy beating him. Darleys didn’t take a lot of chances and Maurice just kind of boxed to the best of his ability, at that point, but he really pushed forward and he showed me a lot of character.”

 

It’s his belief that, without this particular fight and the way it unfolded, they wouldn’t be getting this opportunity.

 

“Honestly we believe everything happens for a reason, based on Terry Flanagan and (promoter) Frank Warren and the way they’ve brought him up. If that fight didn’t happen, they would’ve never fought us because he’s been running away from a lot of people,” stated Parra.

 

Beat Flanagan and bring home the belt and they’ll never to hear about the Perez fight again.

 

 

SHOWTIME

 

This fight, along with the return of undefeated former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, will be streamed by Showtime on its Facebook page and YouTube channel on Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT).

 

Yeah, I’ll say it again; there is a premium cable network that is servicing the boxing fans and acting like Netflix. The other one is Blockbuster Video.

 

 

3KR

 

Here’s this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” with Mario Lopez and me. We talk all things boxing and we have the #AskMario segment and “Final Flurries.”

 

 

Steve Kim can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and he tweets (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. He also shares photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.

 

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