LOWELL -- Jonathan Perez learned at far too early an age the blows that are hardest to recover from are the ones you never see coming.

Golden Gloves

Perez was only 5 years old when his 3-year-old brother, Jaffet, was killed in a tragic accident. He is 24 now, but the ache in Perez' heart due to the loss of his beloved baby brother still pains him.

In a sport where only the toughest survive, Perez, a Lowell native who trains at the West End Gym, has a guardian angel hovering over him in the ring.

Perez posted a hard-fought 4-1 split decision victory over Anuel Rosa Lopez of New Haven, Conn.

Jonathan Perez of Lowell, right, tries to console Anuel Rosa Lopez of New Haven, Conn., after Perez was declared the winner of their 123-pound New England
Jonathan Perez of Lowell, right, tries to console Anuel Rosa Lopez of New Haven, Conn., after Perez was declared the winner of their 123-pound New England Golden Gloves bout in Lowell. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

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, in a New England Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions 123-pound Open Division semifinal bout at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday night.

The New England finals will be held at the Auditorium Wednesday beginning at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the door.

"Jaffet was three when a car tragically ran over him and I witnessed it," said Perez, who graduated from Middlesex Community College with a degree in criminal justice. "I fight for him. He's the angel on my shoulder who guides me in all that I do.

"He's in my memory every day. He's the first one I think of every morning. His death is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with. Even as an adult it's tough for me to cope with.


No matter what pain I feel in the ring, it doesn't come close to the hurt of losing my brother. I wouldn't wish the pain I've felt since losing him on my worst enemy. It's so hard for me."

Perez looked very much like a boxer fighting for a cause in his semifinal victory. He continually negated Rosa Lopez' height and reach advantage by working his way inside and pressing the action.

"I definitely had to show my true grit tonight," said Perez, who works as a security guard and in the nutrition industry. "My opponent was a smart fighter. I came in maybe two ounces overweight and I had to lose it and I was a little sluggish.

"I told myself to keep working on the inside and keep throwing punches. In the second and third rounds I tried to make it as uncomfortable as possible for him by controlling the middle of the ring."

Rosa Lopez never backed down in the face of Perez' swarming style, but he was backing up. On several occasions Rosa Lopez had to fight his way off the ropes.

Both fighters landed their share of blows. When the decision was announced Rosa Lopez dropped to his knees in disappointment, feeling he had done enough to win.

"I don't even think it was close," said Rosa Lopez' trainer, Luis Rosa. "Boxing is a lot of politics and today everyone saw a robbery right before their eyes. I'm going to tell my guys not to leave it up to the judges, if you can lay the guy out, lay him out. It's not (Perez') fault. It was the judges' fault. And that's all I have to say."

"He had every right to believe he won the fight because he fought his style fight well," added Perez. "My main goal was to stay on him and stay busy. He was a tough opponent. He fought like a champion."

Perez has experienced his share of ups and downs during an amateur career that includes two USA Boxing New England titles and several Central New England crowns. Missing is a New England Golden Gloves Open Division championship.

"He's been training extremely hard," said Perez' trainer, Jackie O'Neill. "He's a great kid. I told him to nullify the kid's reach and don't let him use it. He's in great shape. He never slows down.

"As a Lowell guy, it would be awesome to see him win the New England Golden Gloves in his hometown. He came inside tonight and worked the body nice. That's his game."

In all likelihood this is Perez' last year fighting in the Golden Gloves as he plans on turning pro.

"Fighting for a New England Golden Gloves title means a lot to me," said Perez. "I want to win for Lowell. I want to win for my Spanish heritage. I want to win for my family. They've been with me through the highs and the lows. I've had 53 fights and my record is 29 wins and 24 losses. Nothing has come easy for me this sport."

So it sure helps having an angel in your corner at every fight.

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter and Tout @cwfrongi




at Lowell Memorial Auditorium

Open Division

Men's Semifinals

114 pounds

Manny Antonetty (Lowell, CNE) by walkover

123 pounds

Jonathan Perez (Lowell, CNE) dec. Anuel Rosa Lopez (New Haven, CT, WNE)

Isaiah Piexoto (East Providence, RI, SNE) dec. John Lopez (Westbrook, ME, NNE)

132 pounds

William Foster (West Haven, CT, WNE) dec. Elijah Piexoto (East Providence, RI, SNE)

141 pounds

Anthony Marsella (Smithfield, RI, SNE) dec. Julio Perez (Marlboro, CNE)

152 pounds

James Perella (Mansfield, SNE) dec. Jalen Renaud (Springfield, WNE)

Rory Stapleton (Lancaster, NH, NNE) dec. Darren Colucci (Swampscott)

165 pounds

Adam Paulino (Warwick, RI, SNE) dec. Charles Espinal (Salem, CNE)

Jason Quirk (Portland, ME, NNE) dec. Jamen Descartes (New London, CT, WNE)

178 pounds

Johnny Rosa (Lawrence, CNE) dec. Elvis Figueroa (New Haven, CT, WNE)

Women's Division


141 pounds

Destiny Chearino (Warwick, RI, SNE) dec. Kimberly Wabik (Somerville, CNE)

Alana Royale (East Hartford, CT, WNE) dec. Lyndsay Kyajohnian (Portland, ME, NNE)

TEAM KEY: CNE-Central New England; NNE-Northern New England; SNE-Southern New England; WNE-Western New England.