Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Juarez still dreams of that world title

Fighters Network

Rocky Juarez knows how fortunate he is to receive so many opportunities after so many failures.

Every time he gets another big fight – which is often – he thanks his devoted promoter (Golden Boy Promotions) and manager (Shelly Finkel) profusely. Yes, it helps tremendously to be well connected.

Every fighter dreams of getting an opportunity to fight for a world title. Juarez, the Olympic silver medalist from the 2000 Games in Sydney, has had five of them – five chances, four losses and a draw.

And more opportunities might lie ahead. Juarez faces talented Jorge Linares on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz card Saturday in Las Vegas, with the winner probably destined to get – you guessed it – a shot at a major belt.

At the same time, Juarez knows such opportunities aren’t limitless regardless of whom you know. If he loses to Linares, his luck very possibly will have run out.

“This isn’t my first crossroads fight,” Juarez said on a conference call, faint laughter in his voice. “I’d like to thank my manager, Shelly, as well as my promoter for the opportunities I’ve been given to show my skill. ÔǪ I’ve never been beaten up in the ring, never been knocked out. I feel the fans love to see me fight.

“ÔǪ There’s no quit in Rocky Juarez. I have to win this fight. I have to prove to myself and the public that Rocky Juarez is not done. I’m still trying to become world champion.”

Juarez (28-6-1, 20 knockouts) has lost only to elite opponents in his title fights and acquitted himself reasonably well in three of the five bouts.

The Houston product lost a split decision to future Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera in his first title shot in 2006 and then lost a unanimous, but competitive decision in the rematch later that year. Then, in February 2009, he drew with Chris John.

Juarez didn’t fare as well against Marquez, who dominated Juarez en route to a one-sided decision in 2007, and lost a clear unanimous decision to John in their rematch.

Still, Juarez feels as if he has come too close to realizing his dream of wearing a belt to even think about giving up.

“This is my life story basically,” said Juarez, who also lost a competitive gold-medal match in the Olympics. “I’ve been so close but never got there. I’m just trying to break that (pattern) at 30. ÔǪ It’s still my goal. To become a world champion would erase all the losses I’ve had in my pro career as well as the Olympic loss I suffered in 2000.

“ÔǪ I know I’m going to break it. That’s what motivates me, what keeps me going.”

Others aren’t so sure whether he’ll break it at this point.

Juarez is 1-3-1 in his last five fights, including a technical loss against fringe contender Jason Litzau in his last fight. And most observers thought John should’ve been awarded the decision in their 2006 draw.

The prevailing thought is that Juarez is slipping.

He might’ve acknowledged as much by reuniting with his original trainer – Ray Ontiveros – for this fight, the hope being he can do the things that put him in position to fight for world titles in the first place.

Juarez also wants to correct a bad habit – starting slowly in his fights.

“One thing that fell off was head movement and also my (left) hook,” he said. “That was my signature punch. It’s one of the things we’ve worked on, getting back to what got us where we are. Head movement, left hook and body shots. And I know I have to start quickly.

“ÔǪ I have to go in the ring and just let my punches go. Everyone knows that when I throw, is when I get knockouts, when I hurt ’em and win fights. I just have to do it.”

Once again, it won’t be easy. Linarez (28-1, 18) is rebuilding after a stunning first-round knockout loss to Juan Carlos Salgado last year but remains a highly regarded fighter.

A victory by Juarez would be a big statement, probably big enough to get him title shot No. 6.

“Every opponent I’ve gone against is a top-caliber fighter,” Juarez, any doubt in his voice giving way to pride. “I believe that if I had been given the opportunity to fight a lesser-class world champion ÔǪ I would’ve been world champion a long time ago. I feel like fighting the best if what you want when you fight for a world title.

“You want to say you fought the best and beat him.”

Will we ever get to hear Juarez say that?

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]