Rocky Juarez said in the build-up to his fight against Rene Alvarado that if he did not win on Monday night, he would retire from boxing.
It did not look good for Juarez midway through the 12-round bout as it looked like youth would triumph over experience.
With possible big paydays on the line, Juarez dug deep and rallied not only to save this fight, but his career.
Juarez controlled the second half of the fight en route to a 12 round unanimous decision over Alvarado at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex. The bout headlined a Memorial Day edition of Golden Boy Live! where most in attendance were members of the armed forces, who watched the action free of charge.
Juarez was coming off an 19-month layoff, when he stopped Antonio Escalante in the eighth round. A 2000 Silver Medalist at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Juarez is best known for losing decisions to Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John, and Jorge Linares.
Alvarado, who had signed a promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year, had fought less average opposition in his native Nicaragua. He was coming off a ninth round technical knockout over Robinson Castellanos on Feb. 15.
After an even first couple of rounds, Alvarado began to take control the action. He used his height and reach to punish Juarez whenever he attempted to get on the inside. Not to be outdone, Juarez would land an occasional overhand right to Alvarado's head.
Sensing he was down, Juarez began to utilize a consistent jab and attack on the body in the seventh round. As the bout progressed in the second half of the fight, Alvarado's punch output dropped, making it easy for Juarez to walk him down.
Whether it was legitimate or a ploy, Alvarado's corner had to deal with issues that included tape falling off Alvarado's gloves or having to rearrange the trunks.
Juarez continued his assault in the ninth and 10th rounds. After taking the 11th round off, he came on strong in the 12th and final round, beating Alvarado to the punch, especially with left hooks or overhand rights to the head.
All three judges' scored the bout in favor of Juarez, 116-112, 116-112, and 117-111.
"My jab got me going and made Alvarado tired," said Juarez immediately after the fight. "It allowed me to land my left hook and body shots. I felt I was the aggressor."
Juarez, from Houston, Tex., improves to 30-10-1, 21 KOs. Alvarado, from Managua, Nicaragua, falls to 20-3, 14 KOs.
Gibson stops Nater
In the eight round co-main event, welterweight KeAndre Gibson knocked out John Nater with one punch in the fourth round.
Gibson, who has reportedly sparred against the likes of Paulie Malignaggi and Ruslan Povodnikov, displayed solid ring generalship as the bout was mostly fought in the middle of the ring.
Gibson worked from behind a consistent jab, pumping it in the face of Nater. He followed those up with two-three punch combinations to the head, while Nater was able to sneak in a right hand.
Following an exchange in the fourth round, Gibson landed a straight right to the ribs of Nater, dropping him to the canvas. Nater writhed in pain as referee Robert Perez counted him out at 2:02.
Gibson, who hails from St. Louis, Missouri, improves to 10-0-1, 5 KOs. Nater, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, drops to 13-6, 10 KOs.
Karl overwhelms Mitchell
Welterweight Ryan Karl had a successful professional debut, stopping Wilbert Mitchell in the second round.
Karl did not need to utilize his sizable height and reach advantage, as he landed at will against Mitchell throughout the fight. Karl had Mitchell in retreat during most of the first round, throwing over 100 punches during that stanza.
Karl could not miss in the second round, repeatedly stunning Mitchell. Later in the round, Karl landed a hard right hand that momentarily staggered Mitchell. Moments later, Karl had Mitchell with his back against the ropes, landing at will. Referee Steve Smoger saw enough and waved the fight over at 1:00.
Mitchell, from Dallas, Tex., drops to 1-11.
Love decisions Ladisa
In the opening bout of the "Golden Boy Live" telecast, Alex Love won a four round decision over Juliette Ladisa. No scores were announced. Both are amateur fighters, with Love being an active member of the United States Army.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing