By Robert Morales
Ricardo Juarez (L) throws a left at Marco Antonio Barrera during their WBC super featherweight title fight at Staples Center. Barrera defeated Juarez to retain his belt. Juarez will try again for the super featherweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 15. If Rocky Juarez isn't careful, he is one day going to be mentioned in the same breath as Ruben Castillo. On the surface, there would be no shame in that. Digging deeper, it's the last thing Juarez wants.
Castillo was a splendid featherweight/super featherweight whose prime years were in the 1980s. Any time he fought, there were bound to be plenty of thrills because his fights were always exciting. You just knew he was going to become world champion.
Well, Castillo fought four times for a world title from 1980-85.
But get this, his opponents were Alexis Arguello,
Salvador Sanchez, Juan LaPorte and Julio Cesar Chavez. Arguello, Sanchez and Chavez are only three of the greatest fighters in history. And LaPorte was an outstanding world champion in his own right.
Castillo lost all four fights and never became champion.
Fast-forward to the present. Juarez, a U.S. Olympian who won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, is 27-3 with 19 knockouts. He is a talented, hard-hitting fighter with all the makings of a champion. But so far, he is 0-for-2 in title fights against the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera.
Two weeks from Saturday, on Sept. 15 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas,
there is a good chance Juarez will make it 0-for-3 when he challenges Juan Manuel Marquez for his super featherweight championship. Marquez may not have received the same notoriety as fellow Mexicans Barrera and Erik Morales have over the past decade, but he is arguably every bit as good as those two. Ask Barrera, who lost the super featherweight belt he twice defended against Juarez, to Marquez in March.
We spoke Wednesday with Juarez about his newest challenge. He was told about Castillo's story, but he came with confidence when addressing how it relates to his.
"It never comes to mind that I am never going to win a world title," Juarez said. "I do look at it as, I'm fighting the best. Win or lose, as long as I go out there and perform the best I can, that means more to me than the outcome.
"I'm going to prove to myself that I fought the best. And I feel that Sept. 15, I am going to go out there and win that title."
Juarez distinguished himself well against Barrera, first losing a split decision, then a unanimous decision that was very close on two of the three scorecards. Juarez's other loss was to Humberto Soto, another tremendous fighter who won a narrow unanimous decision in an interim title fight.
Juarez, 27, said he learned a lot from those setbacks. Most importantly, he realizes that he needs to start quicker and throw more punches. He admitted that he had gotten into the bad habit of looking for that one big knockout punch because he has one-punch knockout power.
"I just need to start off quick from the first round and then fight hard through the 12th round," said Juarez, of Houston.
Originally, Marquez (47-3-1, 35 KOs), was supposed to defend against Jorge Barrios. But Barrios suffered an eye injury and withdrew. When that happens, oftentimes the new opponent is a more of a slouch in comparison to the original opponent. But Marquez realizes that is not the case here.
As Juarez pointed out, Marquez knows that Barrera was nearly beaten by Juarez in their first fight, and that Barrera opted to stick and move in their rematch because he was hurt late by Juarez in that first fight.
"I know Rocky Juarez is a tough fighter," Marquez said. "He wants that title. He has been looking for any title for a very long time."
HBO pay-per-view will televise the Golden Boy Promotions card for $44.95.
All four of today's world heavyweight champions are from Eastern bloc countries. But Victor Oganov of Russia is trying to make his mark in the super middleweight division, and Saturday we'll get a chance to see if he's the real deal.
Oganov, nicknamed "The Destroyer," will take on Fulgencio Zuniga of Colombia in the main event from Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash. Showtime will televise as part of its ShoBox series featuring up-and-comers.
If you are interested in knockouts, the 31-year-old Oganov is 26-0, every victory coming by way of knockout. Only two of his opponents have lasted into the seventh round. Thirteen of his knockouts have come inside of two rounds.
Oganov is not only a hard-hitting fighter, but also a smart one.
His lofty 100 percent knockout ratio notwithstanding, Oganov apparently does not go into a fight expecting to stop his opponent. Kind of like a good home run hitter, he lets it come naturally.
"(Saturday) is going to be just my second fight in America,"
Oganov said. "I want to prove that I deserve to be a world champion. It will be fun, and it will definitely be interesting. It also will be a very hard fight because Zuniga is a good fighter.
"He gets knocked down, and he gets back up. We cannot promise a knockout, but we can promise one thing, and that's a good fight."
Oganov currently makes his home in Australia. But once again showing his intelligence, he came to Los Angeles a few weeks ago to complete his training for this 12-round fight.
"There is good sparring in Los Angeles," said Oganov, who has done some of his sparring at La Brea Boxing in Los Angeles.
"Some of the best super middleweights in the world are here right now."
Zuniga, 30, is no slouch. He is 19-2-1 with 16 knockouts. He, too, packs a wallop. And his two losses have come to world-class fighters Daniel Santos and Kelly Pavlik. Zuniga lost a 12-round decision in a challenge to Santos' junior middleweight belt in June 2003, and he was stopped in the ninth round by current top middleweight contender Pavlik in October 2005.
"I look forward to fighting him," Zuniga said. "I know Oganov is a hard puncher and has a lot of knockouts, but he hasn't been in against the same level of opposition I have. ...
"I am not a runner. With the two of us, there will definitely be a lot of banging."
The semi-main event will James Kirkland against Mohammad Said in a junior middleweight bout. Kirkland, 23, of Austin, Texas, is another one to watch. The southpaw is 19-0 with 16 knockouts.
Said resides in Secaucus, N.J., but is from Brazil. He is 21-5-1 with 14 knockouts.
Juan Carlos Burgos. Remember that name because if his performance last Friday on a Thompson Boxing Promotions card in Corona is any indication, you'll be hearing it a lot.
Burgos stopped Adam Carrera, once ranked as high as No. 5 in the world, in the third round with a body punch. Pat Russell, a longtime referee and judge, was one of three judges. He said afterward that he was impressed at Burgos' cool nature in the ring when Carrera was going after him with abandon.
Burgos, just 19, is 15-0 with 13 knockouts in the featherweight division.
The card was another success for promoter Ken Thompson, as nearly 1,800 fans filled up the outdoor arena at his Omega Products International.
Thompson's next card will be Sept. 21 at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario. The main event will feature heavyweight standoutChris "The Nightmare" Arreola (21-0, 19 KOs) of Riverside against Thomas Hayes (26-1, 18 KOs) of Chicago.