Omar Juarez is ready to greet uncomfortable times in the ring
Omar Juarez remembers sinking his hands inside gloves that were as large as his head then. He recalls thinking he should have been wearing a Depends diaper than slipping into a groin protector.
His knees shaking, his eyeballs bulging out of his skull, Juarez was a tiny, 64-pound eight-year-old about to fight the legendary Justin Garcia, a kid his age who had already fought five times.
This was going to be Juarez’s first, going three one-minute rounds that felt like an eternity.
The next thing he knew, Juarez, the promising 21-year-old junior welterweight from Brownsville, Texas, was on his ass crying in the middle of the ring. It’s over a decade since that occurred, though Juarez won’t ever forget what he did next—he got up. He was beaten and embarrassed, and two days later, without any prompting, he was back in the gym.
There is a reason why Juarez is growing and will continue to grow as a fighter, currently carrying an 11-0 record, with 5 knockouts, because of one simple act—rising to his feet, with tears in his eyes. He got knocked down three times—and each time he rose.
He didn’t quit.
He talks today about facing greater challenges and a willingness to adapt to uncomfortable situations in the ring. It’s then that he reminds himself that there was never a more uncomfortable setting than eating his first punch in the face in his initial fight.
“Boxing showed me dedication and sacrifice, because I used to be that kid who used to sit in the back of the classroom and not say anything to anyone,” recalled Juarez, who speaks with a sagacious tone, projecting like someone in their mid-30s. “I never looked back at it before like that. This little eight-year-old got knocked down and got back up. I just remember being knocked down.
“But I did get back up. That fight took place on a Saturday and I was back in the gym on Monday morning, and I’ll never forget my father saying, ‘What’s up champ,’ and we just continued and moved forward from there as if nothing happened. I never really looked back as a learning moment, but when you look at everything, it was.”
Juarez is coming off an April unanimous 10-round victory over veteran Elias Damian Araujo (21-3, 8 KOs). It marked the first time Juarez went 10 rounds—and he did it rather easily.
Juarez showed great patience in dismantling Araujo. He never faced an unnerving moment.
He’s looking forward to the time when he is faced with an alarming instance, because without it, he won’t know how to confront it when the situation does arise.
“I’ve always told myself this, whether it’s sparring in training camp or in a fight, that I will need to be in uncomfortable spots, because that will tell me that I’m learning and I’m growing,” Juarez said. “It builds character, and it develops me as a fighter. Any uncomfortable situations that happen to me, I’ll welcome it.
“I can’t wait.”
Juarez beat Araujo 99-91 on two scorecards and 98-92 on the other, and that was being generous to Araujo.
“I felt I could have gone three or four more rounds,” Juarez said. “I felt I was invincible there for the 10 rounds, but I will admit, I was a little sore on the Monday after the fight, mainly in the back of my head, because of the punches I took there.
“It may have looked good to everyone else watching the fight, but not to me. I did a lot wrong. I was in the pocket a little too much, I should have counter punched more and jabbed more. But when I look at everything, I did do well. There is still a lot to do.”
Juarez managed to fight three times last year, after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. His goal this year is to fight three more times before the end of the year, fighting in July, September and December.
Juarez has gone 51 rounds, over 11 bouts, which averages slightly under five rounds a fight.
What will bring out the best in Omar Juarez?
He’s fought counter punchers, pressure fighters and fighters willing to stay in the middle of the ring.
“Whatever opponent is scheduled for me moving ahead, I know I’ll be more than ready, because I’m being moved at a really good pace and I like it,” said Juarez, who will turn 22 on June 16 and at 5-foot-9 is rangy at 140. “I want to keep my streak alive. My first fight I was knocked down and I haven’t been knocked down since. I remember how scared I was then—I was going to piss my pants (laughs).
“I just want to focus on one fight at a time, and I still do feel comfortable at 140 and will stay here for a year or two and then go up. I want to see how far I can go at 140, looking at a minor belt last this year or early next year.
“I feel boxing really brought out how to naturally feel in uncomfortable states. I want to experience more of them.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.