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John ready for Juarez but wishes he could fight Marquez again

18
Sep

LAS VEGAS — The last time Chris John and Juan Manuel Marquez shared a card they fought each other in a 12-round featherweight title bout.

John scored a unanimous decision in a title defense against Marquez in his native Indonesia 3¾ years ago. Marquez considers the upset loss to be the low point of his career.

Much has changed since then.

Marquez has risen to junior lightweight and lightweight, where high-profile bouts with Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera, Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz have catapulted the Mexican veteran up pound-for-pound ratings and into Saturday’s welterweight bout with Mayweather.



John, who faces Rocky Juarez on the Mayweather-Marquez undercard, has remained unbeaten and has defended his title 10 times. His last defense was a draw with Juarez in February in the former U.S. Olympian’s hometown of Houston.

Most observers thought the entertaining fight, John’s first in the U.S., should have been a victory for the gutsy stick-and-move specialist but he says he’s honored to get a rematch on one of the biggest cards of the year.

His only regret is that he will never get a rematch with Marquez.

“No one could have predicted that we’d share a card three years after we fought and that he would be in the main event,” said John (42-0-2, 22 knockouts). “I’m happy for him but it’s a shame he didn’t stay at featherweight. I would have liked to fight him again in the United States.”

John didn’t say that with any jealousy or animosity. The Jakarta native looks like a Buddhist monk and has the humility of a holy man.

However, of the few American fans who have seen John’s fight with Marquez (which was not televised in the U.S.), many believe it was a questionable decision for the Jakarta native.

John has the utmost respect for Marquez but he believes that he legitimately beat the future hall of famer.

“I thought he was great when we fought,” he said. “But I had the right strategy to beat him. I moved around him. That’s how to fight him. To stand in front of him and punch with him is not very smart. If Mayweather is to beat him, he must be smart.”

John’s trainer, Craig Christian, added:

“Marquez is a great counter puncher. We knew we couldn’t come straight in. Chris had to move in and out and show fast feet the entire fight. It was an amateur style, more or less, that he put on Marquez.”

Christian gets upset when he hears or reads the word “disputed” attached to John’s victory over Marquez.

“He never got the credit he deserved for that win,” Christian said. “Marquez didn’t complain too much after the fight. We would have loved to have a rematch to settle any dispute about who won it.”

Unless John elects to put on 10-15 pounds a rematch with Marquez isn’t in the cards, but his return match with Juarez is a pivotal bout in his career.

John is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — names in athletics in Indonesia, but he’s still unknown in America. If he can beat Juarez in decisive fashion on Saturday, he will take the first step in establishing himself to American fight fans.

That’s John’s goal.

“I want to keep fighting in America,” John said. “I want to fight the best featherweights in the world here.”

John, THE RING’s No. 1-rated featherweight, said he is interested in fighting titleholder Steve Luevano, THE RING’s No. 2-rated contender, for the vacant RING 126-pound title.

ROCKY’S LAST CHANCE?

Of course, John has to get by Juarez (28-4-1, 20 KOs) before he can establish himself as THE champ, but the Houstonian has no intentions of losing Saturday night.

“This isn’t my first big event, and I don’t want it to be my last,” Juarez acknowledged at Thursday’s press conference for the Mayweather-Marquez undercard. “I know that I have to win on Saturday.”

Juarez is confident that he will do just that. Why wouldn’t he be? He believes he won in February.

“I felt I won the first fight,” Juarez said. “I was the aggressor throughout. I started off good, I started strong and I finished strong.

Juarez’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, believes the key to beating John is to consistently match the boxer’s activity.

“It’s the middle rounds Rocky needs to improve on,” Shields said. “He needs to fight the same fight he did last time but he has to keep his focus and activity up in the middle rounds because those are the rounds that John won.”

Juarez agrees.

“I know I have to increase my punch output, because he punches a lot,” he said. “I think if I match him, I’ll put him on the defensive. I’ve always been an economical puncher, but I noticed that all my knockouts have come when I let my hands go in combination.”

Juarez believes he’ll get results if he drops those combinations on John.

“I think I can hurt him,” he said. “I feel like I hurt him to the body in our first fight. If I let my left hook go in this fight, I think I can hurt him to the head or bust his face up so bad they have to stop it like my fight with (Jorge) Barrios.”

STRONG UNDERCARD

John-Juarez is an excellent boxer-vs.-pressure fighter bout but it might be the second best matchup of those styles on the televised portion of Saturday’s pay-per-view undercard.

In the second bout of the HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast, lightweight contender Michael Katsidis takes on up-and-comer Vicente Escobedo in a scheduled 12-round bout for an interim title.

Katsidis (25-2, 21 KOs) is known for engaging in consecutive fight-of-the-year-candidate brawls with Graham Earl, Czar Amonsat and former champ Joel Casamayor in an HBO-televised bout that he lost by 10th-round TKO last March. In his last two notable bouts, Katsidis dropped a split decision to Juan Diaz and scored an eighth-round stoppage of former two-division titleholder Jesus Chavez in April.

The 29-year-old boxer-brawler is obviously confident of victory. The best fighter Escobedo has faced is former 130-pound titleholder Carlos Hernandez. Despite getting dropped twice by Escobedo, the 38-year-old pressure fighter extended the 27-year-old Californian to his limits in a rousing 10-round loss in April.

However, Escobedo (21-1, 13 KOs) says the Hernandez fight was a growing experience that helped prepare him for the likes of Katsidis.

“I learned a lot fighting Famoso,” Escobedo said. “He put so much pressure on me that he smothered me. It was hard to box him. I found myself pushing him off so much that I got tired in the late rounds.

“I know better now, and I’ll use what I learned against Katsidis. I’ll know how to box him from the outside and fight him on the inside. My knockdown of Hernandez came when we were in close. I think as my confidence has grown my punches have become harder. I’ve noticed it in training. I think I can hurt Katsidis.

“It’s going to be a good fight. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t steal the show.”

CRUZ-LOCK

The opening bout of the broadcast was supposed to be a welterweight cross-roads fight between former champ Zab Judah and rugged veteran Antonio Diaz, but when the New Yorker pulled out, that fight was replaced by a featherweight bout between Puerto Rico’s Orlando Cruz (16-0-1, 7 KOs) and Detroit’s Cornelius Lock, (18-4-1, 11 KOs).

Both featherweights are skilled southpaws. Cruz is a stick-and-move specialist. Lock is a quick-fisted counter puncher. Neither fighter has been babied in his career.

Cruz is coming off an upset fifth-round KO of then-undefeated (30-0) Mexican prospect Leonilo Miranda. Lock is coming off a 10-round decision loss to 122-pound contender Antonio Escalante, but before that fight, he scored TKO upsets of then-undefeated (14-0) prospect Juan Garcia and fringe contender Roger Gonzalez.

ERISLANDY LARA

The brightest prospect on Saturday’s non-televised undercard is former Cuban amateur standout Erislandy Lara (7-0, 4 KOs), who takes on journeyman Jose Varela (23-6, 16 KOs) in an eight-round junior middleweight bout.

Varela has lost his last four bouts, but he’s usually game and durable. The 32-year-old Nicaraguan has gone the distance with Edison Miranda and Richard Gutierrez, but he was blasted in two rounds against middleweight prospect Daniel Jacobs in his last fight.

Still, if Lara wins, his management says it will push for a world title in his very next fight. That’s right, Lara will jump from fighting journeymen in eight rounders to legitimate contenders in 12-round bouts.

“He steps up with the level of his opposition,” said Luis DeCubas Jr., Lara’s co-manager. “He had 400 amateur bouts, he’s been getting great work in the gym as a pro and he thinks he’s ready, so we’re going to go for it.

“We hear (IBF 154-pound) titleholder Cory Spinks is looking for a fight. He might be the guy. Kermit Cintron is another guy we’d love to fight.”

UNBEATEN UP-AND-COMERS

Also on the non-televised undercard are the following prospects:

Junior welterweight Jessie Vargas (5-0, 2 KOs) of Las Vegas, middleweight Dion Savage (5-0, 3 KOs) of Flint, Mich., and junior lightweight Mike Perez (4-0-1, 2 KOs) of Newark, N.J., all of whom are in against solid opposition.

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