Peralta will make his pro debut
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
It is said that hard times create hard men, but Carson City boxer Mike Peralta, who will be making his pro debut Thursday against Shawn Yacoubian at the Marriott Hotel Grand Ballroom, in Irvine, Calif., could argue the opposite.
Although Peralta, who turned 24 on Monday, was already prepared to turn professional, the entire dynamic of his fledgling career changed because of the rough times of another would-be boxer who trains at the Carson City Boxing Club, which is run by Mike’s father, Francisco Peralta.
Brought into the gym by trainer Chucko Williams, 30-year-old Quentin Blue Horse, a resident of the Dresslerville Indian Reservation (which is near Gardnerville), has seen more than his share of hard times.
Blue Horse, of Sioux (Lakota) and Paiute descent, got into fights that lead first to county jail, then to prison at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. Now trying to channel that aggression through boxing, Blue Horse was also looking to spread altruism instead of engaging in negative behaviors.
“If (Blue Horse) didn’t come along, I’d have been fighting in San Jose,” Mike Peralta said Saturday. “He saw how we (Francisco and Mike) are good people and how I was into it (boxing and turning pro). He wanted to give back to someone who deserved it. It was a blessing. God brought him to the gym. There’s a lot of good people here.”
Looking to become a role model for those getting into trouble on the reservation, Blue Horse was training one day when he overheard the difficulties Peralta was experiencing in dealing with those in the professional boxing world.
“I saw a chance to help him,” Blue Horse said Tuesday. “He’s a good guy with a good heart.”
So Blue Horse took Peralta’s case to a higher court, so to speak, and sent an e-mail to manager Jackie Kallen. Kallen, a den mother on the NBC reality show “The Contender,” made her reputation as boxing’s first lady when she managed former middleweight champion James Toney.
Kallen, portrayed by Meg Ryan in the movie “Against the Ropes,” has a stable of young boxers and was touched by Blue Horse’s e-mail, in which he articulated that he was so sure of Peralta, that he’d pay her way to come stay in Carson City so she could find out for herself.
“He told me about Mike, how he thought I might be interested,” Kallen said via cell phone from Los Angeles. “He told me how (Mike’s) dad was a trainer and ran a gym. (Blue Horse) spoke highly of him. I liked Quentin’s e-mail. It caught my eye the way he put it.
“Mike is young, and that’s important. You don’t want to start with someone who’s in their 30s. He’s young and enthusiastic.”
Kallen put her experience to work immediately and lined up a more suitable opponent for Peralta’s pro debut on July 20. Peralta, who had a 44-33 amateur record, was initially going to meet former amateur star Ray Lampkin Jr. in Portland, Ore.
Although Peralta’s fight fell through when the card was canceled, he still had Kallen behind him. She said she doesn’t look at the fight as an audition, but more as an opportunity for both of them.
“I don’t want him to feel like he has to win or else,” Kallen said. “He’s under enough pressure turning pro without feeling more pressure. I’m sure he’ll do great and we’ll wind up working together for a very long time.”
Kallen said, regardless of the direction Peralta’s career takes, there are no strings attached.
“A lot of managers wouldn’t do what I do,” she said. “They won’t take a chance on getting screwed around by a fighter. They think that he’ll look great and then sign with someone else. I don’t worry about it. I’m a firm believer in things happening how they are supposed to.”
Francisco Peralta said that Mike had discussed turning pro several years ago, but as it turned out he wasn’t really ready.
“The girls stopped him,” Frank said. “He was a hard worker. He worked out really good, was in the gym 24/7, then when he got ready for a fight, a girl got in between.”
Asked if his father’s analysis was correct, Mike grinned and gave a look that said, “Busted.”
“One hundred percent. One hundred ten percent,” he said. “I’ve got my mind a lot more clear. I’m focused on what I want. I’m giving up being with girls. I got a call to go train at Big Bear (training camp in Calif.) and this girl said I got her pregnant. I took responsibility and got us an apartment. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if she had a miscarriage or if she lied, but I was stuck with an apartment and a one-year lease and I was stuck with her.”
In 2003 Peralta, with no child in sight, took off to California to clear his head. He got a job in a warehouse in Sacramento and trained, but didn’t turn pro.
“He got stuck working too many hours and didn’t have time to train properly,” Francisco said. “The only way out was for him to come back home.”
It was back to where he started from for Peralta, who began boxing at age 9. It was the same comfort zone where he grew up watching his dad train under legendary Carson trainer Ted Walker and where he and his father watched on television such Mexican boxing stars as Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera.
“I think he’s more disciplined this time,” Francisco said. “I think what he’ll find this time is his career as a boxer. I don’t think he’s meant to be a labor worker. He tried the labor (in California) and it wasn’t good for him. I think that boxing can be good for him right now.”
If Peralta’s past offers any insight, perhaps boxing is his personal panacea. When he was young he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder.
“The doctors wanted me to take Ritalin for it, but my parents didn’t want me to do it,” Mike said. “They took me to (Ted Walker’s gym). As I’ve been getting older, I’ve seen that – even if I don’t become a champion – boxing has probably saved my life. It’s kept me out of trouble. (Before he was diagnosed with ADDHD) I was expelled in the first grade. I was fighting all the time. I was doing things that made no sense. Without boxing I’d probably be in prison now.”
And now, thanks to Blue Horse, who has already been there, and Francisco, Kallen and his own choices, Peralta finds himself ready to take on the 29-year-old Yacoubian, a ranked kick boxer, who is also making his pro boxing debut.
“I’m training really hard – I’m expecting to knock him out,” said Peralta, who stopped his last seven amateur opponents. “He (Yacoubian) has his own Web site, but he doesn’t have the skills. I’m going to teach him a boxing lesson. He’s good with his legs, but skill-wise I’m going to take it to him.”
Although the pair will meet at 139 pounds in a four-rounder, Peralta plans on using the weight factor as psychological advantage.
“I’m going to come in at 135,” Peralta said. “I want him to think he’s the bigger fighter and get a big head. He’s an inch shorter (at 5-foot-5) than I am and he can’t make 138? I can get down to 132. Maybe he’s not disciplined enough for this sport.”
Neither size – he’s sparred with middleweights and light heavyweights – nor his opponent’s reputation bother Peralta, who said he has several motivations to win this fight.
“Mostly it’s for pride and my family,” Peralta said. “They’ve helped me all these years. I also want to put Carson City on the map. God and my family have always been there and helped me out through all of the tough times I’ve had.”
And while it can be argued – in a positive way – that hard times don’t always make hard people, Peralta’s hoping his tough times will make him too tough for Yacoubian.
Note: You can follow Peralta’s progress through his Web site – http://www.michaelperalta.com.