Juarez primed for Soto!

By Ramon Rodirguez


Juarez primed for Soto!

Rocky Juarez has had his eyes set on a featherweight title for quite some time now. Even as a young boy, his desire to win a world championship has been one of the main drives in his life. “I always dreamed, growing up, watching Julio Cesar Chavez and Mike Tyson fight on TV, that my dream was to become world champion,” said Juarez, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist. “It’s been a goal since I was a child and began boxing.” 

Juarez’ ambitions have not wavered despite crossing many obstacles that have attempted to foil his plans. This Saturday is a prime example. 

On August 20, Juarez (23-0, 16 KOs) fights for the WBC interim featherweight title on HBO’s Boxing After Dark against Humberto Soto, who is a last minute replacement for WBC featherweight champ In Jin Chi. Chi suffered an injury in preparation for this fight while in training camp almost a month ago. For Juarez, the news was a major disappointment. “It was a let down knowing that Chi was my shot at the title. I guess he was preparing himself to fight for the title and being so close to the fight and then I was told that he was injured,” said Juarez. “I was more upset, though, that I hadn’t been active in quite some time. I just wanted to get back in the ring and fight. So I’m happy that now I’m still fighting on HBO, still in Chicago.”

But despite this Saturday’s fight being only an interim title fight, Juarez has taken the proper precautions and is not overlooking the game Soto. Juarez understands that in order to eventually face Chi for the actual WBC title, he must stay focused in spite of any setbacks. “This fight is very important—it’s one I can’t flip as far as it being for the interim title. Soto is ranked no. 2 by the WBC. He’s beaten some good opposition to be where he’s at. He’s a tall guy, real straight-up with a Juan Manuel Marquez stance. He’s a very dangerous fighter, even though not too many people know him. I’ve seen tapes and studied him. He has the ability to move around with angles and a jab. It makes him dangerous but I’m prepared. I’m thinking he’s in great shape and we aren’t taking this fight lightly,” said Juarez. “I have to stay focused and know that in just time I will be given the opportunity for a title as long as I keep winning.”

It has been a grinding road for Juarez as a professional fighter, to be where he has ultimately dreamed of being. Just five fights ago, Juarez was still a rising prospect who was polishing his arsenal, learning the tricks and hard ways of boxing. Though he struggled in bouts against Zahir Raheem, Joe Morales and Hector Velasquez, Juarez admits that he learned the invaluable experience he needed to prepare him for his future. “I thought I should have knocked {Zahir Raheem] out. After the fight, I remember telling my manager Shelly Finkel, that I’d fight Raheem again. I was just upset knowing that there’d be a lot of criticism, I was upset that the referee [Robert Gonzalez] wouldn’t let me fight my fight at the same time [while continuously warning Raheem], not allowing me to work the inside where I didn’t have a problem with the holding. But I picked up experience,” said Juarez. “And Velasquez is probably my toughest fight to date, learning from my mistakes and from a seasoned veteran who’s still a threat in the division. Velasquez is awkward and I definitely learned a lot from it, especially the in-style of fighting.”

That in-style of fighting has boosted Juarez’ fight game tremendously. In his past two fights, Juarez would bludgeon both Juan Carlos Ramirez and Guty Espadas Jr. in less than two rounds each. Juarez looks back and admits that by calming his attack, he could much more effective. “One of the reasons I had gone the distance to my last two fights [against Raheem and Morales], I was looking for the knockout,” said Juarez. “Before that, I had stopped, I believe, my last eight opponents. I think I just went back to my original game plan: be accurate and throw punches. I got accustomed to knocking my opponents out, so I was looking for one shot rather than setting my shots up, working the body, using my jab.”

Should Juarez beat Soto and Chi, he would then have the opportunity to face boxing’s elite, names such as Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Though he feels he could face any of those formidable opponents tomorrow, Juarez says that he does not intend to move up in weight just yet. “At this point in my career, I’m ready to fight any champion, any opponent. I just feel confident in my abilities that I can compete at that level,” said Juarez. “I believe I’m going to try to stay in the featherweight division for quite some time. I’ve been at this division for eight years, even as far back as my amateur career. It becomes difficult but I feel really strong. I don’t think it’s necessary that I move up [in weight] anytime soon. As far as quality opponent, I would love to fight the best out there.”

Juarez understands that his career as a professional fighter is in full bloom. And though, he must wait to face Chi for a world title, Juarez has acquired the patience he needs to join fellow Olympians, super-middleweight champ Jeff Lacy and undisputed middleweight champ Jermain Taylor as fellow champions and faces for the new generation. “I feel that now I’m not an up and coming boxer. I feel like I’ve earned my right for the title and to be a threat in boxing. I believe I can adapt to any style but I’m always going to have my style. I’ve done pretty good in my career so far, so it’s just a matter of my work habit, training hard every day, knowing that there’s always other opponents who may be training harder than I am,” said Juarez. “My goal is to definitely be world champion and be successful, be the best that I can be, support my family, and come out healthy in the end.”

Spoken like a true champion.