The Cork-Cuban took on reigning WBC champion Mairis Briedis of Latvia in the country’s capital at the Riga Arena – and lost an ugly twelve rounder.
The title fight was a quarter final in the inaugural season on the multi-million dollar World Boxing Super Series, with Perez being eliminated on a competitive unanimous decision.
However, Italian referee Massimo Barrovecchio was perhaps the main talking point of the fight, with his bizarre officiating of the contest drawing the ire of Perez.
Baltic boxer Briedis looked to hold regularly, destroying the fight as a spectacle, with the man in the middle doing little to resolve the infringements.
However, Briedis was more composed and a deserved winner, outworking and outlanding a somewhat rusty Perez to claim a competitive win in a forgettable fight.
The Latvian was making his first defence of the belt he won against Marco Huck on points back in April.
For Perez it was his first top level fight – at full capacity – in years.
The Caribbean boxer had returned from two years out in June with a facile win over Slovakian champion Viktor Biscak. In reality though, the last time the ‘real’ Mike Perez stepped into a ring was in November 2013 for his tragic win over Magomed Abdusalamov.
The incapacitating defeat of the Russian affected Perez badly, and he would turn to alcohol in the aftermath, taking to the ring drunk for subsequent big fights – a draw with Carlos Takam, a close loss to Bryant Jennings, and a first round defeat to Alexander Povetkin.
After the heavy loss in Russia, Perez would take time out to get his head straight, and shedded forty pounds, going from a somewhat short and portly heavyweight to a ripped and ready cruiser.
Perez had laughed off rumours during the week that he was struggling with the weight – eating a cheesecake at the weigh-in before registering 197.3lbs on the scales.
While the Leesider was definitely in shape, he was not sharp initially. Pressing the action but landing little, an accidental headbutt from Perez opened a cut to the side of the left eye of Briedis at the start of the third.
Under WBC rules, Perez was docked a point and the Watergrasshill fighter would become increasingly frustrated throughout the bout with the holding tactics of Briedis – and the lack of intervention from Barrovecchio.
While Perez lost his composure somewhat, Briedis was doing enough to win the majority rounds, and hurt the challenger in the seventh with a huge uppercut.
Scrappiness however was the name of the game, and Bridis looked to smother and clinch regularly before eventually being docked a point in the tenth.
Needing a knockout, Perez pressed in the final round, but Bridis managed to hold until the bell to seal the win.
Going to the scorecards, Briedis was handed a deserved victory with tallies of 116-110, 115-111, and 114-112.
Perez falls to 22(14)-3(1)-1 following the loss, and was despondent afterwards. Briedis moves to 23(18)-0 and into the next round.
Briedis will now face WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk [13(11)-0] in a semi-final unification in the new year. The Ukrainian stopped Huck in the tenth round of their quarter final earlier this month.