SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- As 14-year-old Carlos Perez, the state and regional boxing champion, faces the toughest fight of his life in a Portland hospital, his teammates at Mendez Boxing Club in Springfield can only hope.
Perez was critically injured in a car crash Saturday as members of the Mendez team were headed to a competition near Portland. State Police say the Dodge Caravan slammed into the back of a tanker-trailer rig. Perez wasn't wearing a seat belt.
Luis Muniz didn't make this team trip, but says if he had his friend might not be in the Intensive Care Unit.
"I've never been in a car wreck, so I wouldn't have known how I'd react to it. But I know he wouldn't have gone through the windshield. Nothing would have happened," said Muniz.
After winning the Pacific Northwest's regional championships in his age range, Perez made plans to attend Nationals in Missouri. Muniz said this kid is the real deal.
"He beat the national guy, my last fight. Like, whooped his butt," said Muniz.
"The last one we went to he was really, really nervous for it and I cheered him up. I was with him the whole time. He was like a little brother."
Muniz says as difficult as it is, the rest of his boxing season is going to be dedicated to his close friend.
"It's going to be sad but I'm gonna make my coach proud and make Carlos proud," said Muniz, who had a special message for his friend. "I hope you make it."