Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Rocky Juarez will face Juan Manuel Marquez on September 15th in Las Vegas

I just returned from a long slog to the Great White North where I took in the Canadian Arm Wrestling Championships in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Now you wouldn’t think that me attending an arm wrestling competition would generate something to do with Rocky Juarez, but the whole affair got me to thinking.

With the fallout of Argentine, Jorge “La Hyena” Barrios from his September 15th fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, “The Boxing Banker” Richie “Rich” Schaefer, formerly an executive with Swiss Bank UBS Warburg (how’s that for useless information?) and Golden Boy Promotions were at Def-Con 4 trying to keep their “Fireworks” pay-per view show from fizzling out like a dud on Mexican Independence Day.

So when “La Hyena” was blacked out with multiple retinal tears it was no laughing matter. In stepped Rocky Juarez, who had initially been scheduled to face 126-pound IBF belt wearer Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero on the same card and the day was saved for Golden Boy Promotions.

To their credit, Golden Boy initially pitched undefeated WBO 130-pound belt holder Joan Guzman as the replacement opponent for WBC champ Marquez, but that fight was turned down by Marquez’ trainer and manager Nacho Beristain quicker than you can say, “No way, Don Jose Sulaiman!”

But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here, so let’s go back in time shall we?

The first time I remember seeing Rocky Juarez was seven years ago when he was only 19 years-old and a fresh faced world amateur champion. He was just as respectful and thoughtful and polite then as he is now.

It was at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Tampa, Florida at the Tampa Convention Center (how’s that for useless information?) and Juarez was facing off against Stevie Luevano (now the WBO 126-pound titlist) for featherweight bragging rights.

The ink wasn’t yet dry on Juarez’ high school diploma from Jefferson Davis High School in Houston, Texas, which is the same high school that produced 1972 welterweight Olympic Bronze Medalist Jesse Valdez (how’s that for useless information?) Juarez went on to defeat Luevano for the third time in a row as an amateur and later that year to win the Olympic silver medal in Sydney, Australia. Of course not long after that Juarez began punching for pay.

When asked that day in Tampa why he went by the name “Rocky” - Juarez, who has eyelashes longer than the recently departed Tammy Faye Baker (how’s that for useless information?) explained it this way. “My father wanted to name me after Rocky Marciano,” said the diminutive Juarez. “My grandma, well, she didn’t like the name because Marciano in Spanish means ‘martian’ (how’s that for useless information), so my Dad changed it to Ricardo.”

So fast forward seven years and I got to thinking about Rocky Juarez and the terrible position that he was put into with having to choose between fighting Robert Guerrero for a featherweight title that he could probably win, or getting thrown in with the lion they call Juan Manuel Marquez for a 130-pound championship fight that he has little chance in.

It reminded me of those Canadian arm wrestlers who stared into each other’s faces without blinking and then heard the crowd yelling into their ears, “Over the top!” or “Tear it off!” or some such. Like Rocky Juarez they were under pressure to step up to the table.

You’ve got to ask yourself why Rocky Juarez’ management would advise such a fight for a young fighter that still hasn’t gotten his feet back under him after having lost two in a row to the great Marco Antonio Barrera last year.

As Al Bernstein would say, “Make no mistake”, a manager’s job is to protect his fighter to some extent. The manager’s job is to get his fighter the maximum reward for an acceptable level of risk. So why was Rocky Juarez taken out of a fight he would likely have won to get put into a fight where he will likely get beaten up?

Say what you want about the alphabet sanctioning cartels and their Byzantine methods, but those pieces of plastic called title belts that they hand out in return for sanctioning fees are a powerful and useful too when it comes time to negotiate television contracts and fight purses. Yet after an Olympic silver medal, 30 professional fights, over seven years as a pro, with all of that promise and with a name made for a fighter, Rocky Juarez is still no closer to realizing he and his grandfather’s dream of winning a world title. He will likely lose to Marquez and then he is right back where he was before this fight with no title belt and no bargaining chip.

And then remember that the same people who cursed Marquez’ manager Nacho Beristain for being “overprotective” and a “hard bargainer” are now the same ones that are calling him “savvy” and “wise” for turning down a fight with Joan Guzman and instead opting for the easier fight with Juarez. If Juarez’ management was as deft he would likely be a world champion by now.

You’ve then got to ask yourself why Rocky Juarez’ advisers would “advise” him the way they have.

You must remember that Rocky Juarez was a boxing prodigy initiated into boxing by his grandfather who was a boxer in Mexico. (How’s that for useless information?) Juarez’ grandfather taught him the basics and got him into the boxing game after pulling him from a dusty baseball diamond when he was only 13 years-old, much like Joel De La Hoya pulled Oscar from hitting with Louisville Sluggers to hitting with Reyes.

You must also remember that in this day and age of four titles per weight division why is it that Rocky Juarez has not won some sort of a title at 126 or 130 pounds? You’ve got to ask yourself is it the fighter or is it the managers that advise him?

Yes, boxing is a business and it is about money. “Make no mistake”, as Al Bernstein would say, that when you fight on a Golden Boy Promotions pay-per view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas everything is about the bottom line.

But I think back to that day in 2000 in Tampa, Florida and I think about the honest little Rocky Juarez who said “I don’t want to let my head get too big for me” and about his dream to win the gold medal that never came. Later it became about his dream to win a world title that has also never come. I think about the bond he has with his grandfather that started all of this and then I think about the vultures that probably twisted Rocky Juarez’ thoughts and presented the “opportunity” against Juan Manuel Marquez as something that he “couldn’t turn down” because of "the money”.

And then I think about that day spent in Fredericton, New Brunswick under the chandeliers of a hotel ballroom with burly men grunting and groaning, locked hopelessly in one-armed stalemates.

And I realized that Rocky Juarez is in a similar predicament.

August 2007

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