Professional Boxer Joe Perez returns home for main event Feb 10

Smokin' Joe Perez in 2022. Photo by Jose Murillo / Hola America

East Moline native, Joe Perez, reflects on the twilight of his professional boxing career.

Perez to headline February 10 card against Mike “Maverick” Conway

By Stephen Elliott, Hola America


There’ll likely be no mystery when Joe Perez steps into the ring on Saturday, February 10, at the RiverCenter in Davenport, Iowa for the main event against Pittburgh’s Mike “Maverick” Conway.

Perez, 34, who grew up in East Moline, Ill., and for the last 10 years, up until 4 months ago, lived in San Diego, Calif., is all about consistency both inside and outside of the ring. 

Good left jab, right cross, left hook, movement. Add heart and determination. Perez has a style that is devoid of drama, more workmanlike and built on a solid foundation.

Perez, 34, has had a career in the pro ranks mixed with both disappointment and success. Once a U.S. Olympic Trials fighter, Perez started his pro career in 2012.

Perhaps a win or two could have moved him toward contender status. Today, he is philosophical and introspective on his career.

“You know, I’ve always had a plan,” Perez says. “The goal was to win a world title. I’ve taken some losses. No manager. No promoter. It’s a tough road. I don’t want to end up becoming a journeyman fighting for paychecks.


“I’m looking at maybe two more fights. I enjoy fighting at home here in the Quad-Cities. I’m motivated. My wife and my kids are my biggest supporters. I want to put on a good show, especially when fighting at home in front of the fans. They motivate me. They pay their hard-earned money to watch some good fights.”

Many professional fighters like Perez have a full-time job, they raise a family, they train after work. 

“My wife Hannah shares the same dreams as me,” Perez says. “I’m gone most of the day. I leave to train before the kids wake up. Then, I go to work. I train afterwards. Sometimes I’m home when they’re getting ready to go to bed.  She helps them get ready for school, feeds them, helps them with their homework.”


Perez’ coach in San Diego was four-time U.S. Olympic boxing coach and 2012 head coach Basheer Abdullah. The 20-year U.S. Army veteran was also head coach of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and U.S. Armed Forces head coach.

Perez was Abdullah’s first professional fighter.

“We came out here grinding together with no support,” Abdullah says. “Joe’s a pioneer for the rest of my fighters. He took the tough road, took chances. I wish I had the connections that I have today. I think his journey would be totally different.”

“Joe Perez sets a lot of standards for my athletes when it comes to work ethic and discipline,” Abdullah says. “They understand his journey.”

Abdullah says he likes what he’s seeing in Perez. A little older, a little wiser, Perez has been battle-tested. He hasn’t lost his motivation, Abdullah says.

“Joe seems to be re-energized,” he says. 

Four months ago, Perez and his family moved back to Illinois, Wonder Lake, Illinois, to be precise. During the weekdays, he trains on his own at a local gym and, on the weekends, travels to the Quad Cities to train with his childhood coach Steve VanDeWalle. 


Steve VanDeWalle, who was the 1998 U.S. Armed Forces Champion and a top-ranked amateur boxer in the 1990s, was Perez’ first trainer. VandeWalle, who served in the Army and retired from the ring in 1999, was coached by Abdullah with the Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colo.

When he left the military, VanDeWalle started working with youngsters back home in the Quad Cities. Perez was his first fighter at the age of 9. VanDeWalle will work his corner for the February 10 fight.

Joe Perez was still baby-faced in his 2010 US Olympic Trials years with coach Steve VanDeWalle and Abel Zertuche Jr.
Photo by Tar Macias / Hola America Archives

“Joe’s done some terrific things in boxing,” VanDeWalle says. “He’s a very intelligent fighter. More than anything, I’m proud of him as a man, father, and a husband. He’s a very dedicated family man. I’m happy to have played a part in that development.”

Perez threw his first jab before he was 10 years old. At 34, he’s still throwing leather and doing it well. There may be an inner voice telling him it has to end sometime, but not now. Not on February 10.

“I have no regrets,” Perez says. “I won what I won. I lost what I lost. I move on. Right now, I’m still able to do what I love to do. To me, that’s the good part of boxing.”

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