By Sergio Martinez
It is hard to fathom that after more than a decade into his career, Houston native Ricardo “Rocky” Juarez would end up as an “A” side opponent/boxing trial horse fighting on Telefutura; but that is exactly where the 32-year-old former United States Olympian finds himself. After culminating an outstanding amateur career by winning a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Juarez took the logical step and pursued a professional boxing career. It was not too long ago that Juarez was a hot prospect turned budding contender signed by Main Events that appeared to be well on his way to boxing stardom.
On January 13, 2001, at the ripe old age of 20, with one of the most powerful promotional companies behind him, the Houstonian began his march to boxing glory. Early in his career, Juarez electrified crowds and captured the imagination of the boxing world by blending solid offensive boxing aptitude with a gritty, fighting spirit. His boxer/puncher approach served him well as fight fans were guaranteed to be entertained since he was reasonably easy to hit and had real power in his left hook.
During the first part of his career Juarez was perfect: in his first 21 fights, he won 14 by knock-out. The most memorable win in those first 21 contests was a come-from-behind, final round, left-hook knock-out victory over Antonio “Chelo” Diaz. Diaz was winning until he was dropped and counted out.
The second half of Juarez’s career has been a completely different story. His once promising vocation has become more of a health-concerning nightmare. In his last 15 fights, Juarez has lost nine and drew once. His level of competition has been mostly fierce in those 15 contests, as he has fought the likes of Humberto “Zorita” Soto, Chris John (twice), Marco Antonio Barrera (twice) and Jorge Linares. Juarez lost each of these fights except for a draw he had in his first fight against John.
As his career progressed, Juarez’s limited defensive skills have diminished even further, resulting in the tough Texan taking more punishment as he has aged. This durability, his early career promise and quality amateur credentials have kept “Rocky” at the upper levels of the sport far longer than his actual ability merit: he can still beat the “never-was” athletes of the sport but presents little to no threat to the upper echelon. In addition, Juarez has as solid of a chin as any fighter in the last 20 years. He has never been stopped in 38 fights and always gives a valiant showing. Because of this, his long-term health prognosis truly becomes a serious area of concern.
Tomorrow (June 2, 2012), Juarez will continue his pugilistic plight as he faces the vastly untested Andrew “Chango” Cancio at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. “Rocky” will step into the ring after an 8 month lay-off, hoping for a win to contend the losses of his last five fights. Cancio, who has beaten no one of any substance losing to a fighter with a 7-6-3 record, looks to be the perfect pug with a fabricated record of 13-1-2 with 11 knockouts to get the former silver medalist back on the winning track. It will ready him, record-wise, to lose to another top prospect or budding title hopeful looking to pad his resume with a “named” opponent.
As much as Juarez has given to this sport and because he is a genuine guy, it is easy for anyone to cheer for him to have his hand raised in victory tomorrow night. Still, because of the same reasons mentioned, and the fact that he is still a young man and father with a lot of life ahead of him, there is a small hope that this will be his last fight. If that means that he is not successful tomorrow, so be it. In the end, every solid punch that he lands and every flash of his old self that he can still muster during tomorrow’s contest will only lead him to his next beating. And by then, it might be too late as his once revered name, durability and the willingness for promoters to use his as an “A” side opponent and a trial horse for upcoming fighters will ultimately have disastrous consequences.