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Maurice Hooker looking for knockout performance on Kovalev-Ward undercard

Maurice Hooker quickly found out that leaving the outcome of a fight in the hands of the judges isn’t always a smart idea.

Hooker recorded a split draw in his first professional bout against Tyrone Chatman in 2011. The Dallas native is still baffled by the judges.

“I’m not sure if the judges were even watching the fight,” Hooker said. “That was the day I told myself I need to do better. I need to take this sport serious and learn from this.”

The 27-year-old boxer known as “Mighty Mo” learned that his power punches gave him the best opportunity for victory. Hooker (21-0-2) has knocked out 16 of his 22 opponents since his first professional fight.

“He hasn’t shown his boxing skills,” said Vincent Parra, who trains Hooker. “He found out early that he has one-punch power. He likes to put on a show for the fans.”

The “Mighty Mo” show hits Las Vegas on Saturday when Hooker meets Darleys Perez in a 10-round junior welterweight match on the HBO pay-per-view undercard of Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward at T-Mobile Arena.

Perez, 33, from Colombia, is a former WBA lightweight champion with plenty of ring experience. Perez (33-2-1, 21 knockouts) has faced former world titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa and Anthony Crolla.

A win against Perez could set up the rising Hooker with a world title shot in the near future.

“I’m going in there to dominate and go for the knockout,” Hooker said. “It doesn’t matter what he’s done in the past. I just have to worry about right now. I can’t think about the next fight.”

Terence Crawford holds the WBO and WBC belts in the 140-pound division, but don’t expect Hooker to call out the unified champion. Hooker often spars with Crawford and considers him a friend.

“Mo wants to be at Terence’s level,” Parra said. “They’re on different roads. Mo will get there soon. There will be a title shot and there’s plenty of competition out there for Mo.”

Hooker has had trouble getting top contenders to face him. The Texan is reserved outside the ring, but he might have to start calling out the fighters who have avoided him to get the big-money fight he wants.

“He’s quiet, but boxers know what he’s capable of,” Parra said. “A lot of fighters don’t want to fight Mo.”

Hooker was forced into boxing at the age of 13.

“I got in trouble a lot as a kid and my dad wanted me to get beat up for it so he put me in boxing,” Hooker said. “I fell in love with it right away.”

Hooker grew up idolizing Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Tommy Hearns and Aaron Pryor, who recently died.

“I will be dedicating this fight to Aaron Pryor,” Hooker said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor ‘The Hawk’s’ legacy than with a big win. I look to be a world-class junior welterweight champion like him.”

Hooker is proud of where he comes from and could be the first Dallas-born fighter to compete on an HBO pay-per-view card.

“We’re proud of that,” Parra said. “Dallas is important to Mo, and he wants to tell everyone where he comes from.”

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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