Boxing Insider Notebook: Juarez, Imam, Flores, Parker, Winters, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of February 4th to February 11th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Omar Juarez Greets Kids with Special Needs at the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine
Undefeated super lightweight boxing sensation, Omar “El Relámpago” Juarez (7-0, 4 KOs), was a featured guest of honor at last Friday’s “A Night To Shine”, a prom-style event for special needs children presented by Down By The Border in association with the Tim Tebow Foundation, which took place on February 7, 2020.
Shoe Palace and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), proudly presented Omar at this very heartwarming and touching event that featured makeup stations, red carpet paparazzi entrances, and attendance by local and state-level dignitaries that made a night to remember for years to come.
As this event grows larger with each passing year, Juarez plans to be at every event. Omar saw nine hundred people in attendance, many of whom lined up to get a photo or autograph with him.
“This is such a great time and a special event,” said Omar Juarez, who is a rising prospect for PBC. “I look forward to attending this event every year as it is such a special event and so memorable for everyone involved, especially the kids. I want to thank Shoe Palace, PBC, Down by the Boarder, and the Tim Tebow Foundation for letting me be part of this event with their support.”
Amir Imam-Javier Molina, Gabriel Flores and Isaac Lowe Headline Wilder-Fury 2 Prelims
An exciting lineup of rising stars will enter the ring in undercard action leading up to the highly anticipated rematch between unbeaten WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder and undefeated lineal champion Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury headlining a historic, mega PPV event Saturday, February 22 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Wilder vs. Fury II Prelims will feature hard-hitting undefeated contender Subriel Matias in a super lightweight showdown against Petros Ananyan, plus super lightweight contender Amir Imam taking on Javier Molina.
Prelims will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on FS1, ESPNEWS and in Spanish on FOX Deportes and ESPN3. ESPNEWS’ coverage will switch to ESPN at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
The Wilder vs. Fury II PPV begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features former heavyweight world champion Charles Martin squaring off against former title challenger Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington for a 12-round IBF Heavyweight Title eliminator in the co-main event. WBO Junior Featherweight World Champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete, a.k.a “The Mexican Iron Man” will defend his title against Filipino contender Jeo Santisima in the PPV featured bout. Plus in the PPV opener, super welterweight sensation Sebastian “The Towering Inferno” Fundora will face 2016 Australian Olympian Daniel Lewis in a 10-round battle of unbeatens.
Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased at www.mgmgrand.com or www.axs.com. The event is promoted by BombZquad Promotions, TGB Promotions, Top Rank and Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions. A Premier Boxing Champions presentation.
A pro since 2015, Matias (15-0, 15 KOs) has stopped every opponent he’s faced in the professional ranks, including three more knockout victories in 2019. The 27-year-old will be fighting in the U.S for the third time on February 22, and the first time in Las Vegas, as he looks for a big 2020 debut. The Fajardo, Puerto Rico native will take on the 31-year-old, Ananyan (14-2-2, 7 KOs), who made his U.S. debut in December 2019, losing a narrow majority decision against Kareem Martin after defeating Arkadi Harutyunyan in April 2019. Born in Abovyan, Armenia and training in Houston, Texas, Ananyan was unbeaten in his first 15 fights after turning pro in 2015.
“I’m very excited for this fight and thankful to my team for giving me this great opportunity,” said Matias. “Just like all of my other fights, I’m going to train to my maximum level, because no matter who the opponent is, we’re all chasing the same dream. I want to thank him for taking this fight, but I won’t let him stand in my way. We’re going to give the fans great action and on February 22, we will know who is the most prepared to win.”
“This is a moment that every boxer dreams about and I can’t wait to demonstrate my skills on a big show,” said Ananyan. “I’m training hard, learning my opponent’s style, his weaknesses and putting together a strategy for fight night. This is a very important fight for me, because with a win I will be able to make my dreams come true. It’s been a long road to achieve my dreams and I’m ready to take another big step on February 22.”
The fighting pride of Albany, N.Y., Imam (22-2, 19 KOs) has resumed his quest for a super lightweight world title. After promotional issues kept him out of the ring for nearly two years following his competitive March 2018 decision loss to Jose Ramirez for the vacant WBC super lightweight title, Imam came back in grand style last November, knocking out Marcos Mojica in four rounds. The Mojica fight was his first under the Top Rank banner, and he’ll return against promotional stablemate Molina (21-2, 9 KOs), a 2008 U.S. Olympian. Molina went 3-0 in 2019, most recently knocking out Hiroki Okada at 1:05 of the opening round in their ESPN-televised showdown.
“I feel blessed to be fighting on the undercard of the biggest fight of the year,” said Imam. “I am prepared to shine and take full advantage of the opportunity and the exposure. I’ve had a great camp in preparation for this fight. I’m excited to get in the ring and I feel stronger and more prepared than ever. Defeating Javier Molina will put myself back in the conversation as one of the top super lightweights in the world.”
“I’m looking forward to fighting in an event as big as this one,” said Molina. “I know I’m facing a tough fighter in Amir Imam, but these are the type of fights that I need to earn a world title shot. I’m excited and ready to make a statement on February 22.”
The action-packed non-televised lineup includes unbeaten prospect Rolando Romero battling fellow unbeaten Arturs Ahmetovs in an eight-round lightweight fight, plus rising prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. in an eight-round lightweight affair against Matt Conway.
Rounding out the card is sensational 17-year-old prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr. in a four-round welterweight attraction against Corey Champion, and unbeaten featherweight Isaac Lowe squaring off against Mexico’s Alberto Guevara.
Fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada, Romero (10-0, 9 KOs) added three knockout victories to his tally in 2019, including a highlight-reel knockout win on FS1 in April when he stopped Andres Figueroa. A fast-rising prospect in the Mayweather Promotions stable, the 24-year-old will look to extend his five-fight knockout streak on February 22. He will take on the 30-year-old Ahmetovs (5-0, 2 KOs), who turned pro in March 2019 and picked up five victories throughout the year. Ahmetovs was born in Riga, Latvia and fights out of Delray Beach, Florida.
The 19-year-old Flores (16-0, 6 KOs) is one of the sport’s rising stars, an amateur prodigy who signed with Top Rank at the age of 16. Already a proven ticket-seller in his hometown of Stockton, California, he will be making his fourth Las Vegas appearance. Last September, he shut out Miguel Angel Aispuro over six rounds on the Fury vs. Otto Wallin undercard at T-Mobile Arena. Conway (17-1, 7 KOs) is a five-year pro whose only defeat came via split decision to Francisco Esparza last October.
Still a senior in high school, the 17-year-old Mielnicki (4-0, 3 KOs) fights out of his hometown of Roseland, New Jersey and turned pro in July 2019 after a stellar amateur career. Mielnicki has shown his immense skill in back-to-back performances on FOX PBC Prelims, stopping Marklin Bailey on the Wilder vs. Ortiz II prelims show on FS2 in November, then defeating Preston Wilson in his 2020 debut in January on FS1. He will take on the 21-year-old Champion, who fights out of Charlottesville, Virginia and has fought three times since turning pro in July 2019.
Lowe (19-0-3, 6 KOs), Fury’s close friend and training partner, is a former Commonwealth featherweight champion who has won five in a row since a 2018 draw against Ryan Walsh for the British featherweight title. A fan-friendly pressure fighter, Lowe was victorious on the undercards of Fury’s last two bouts and hopes to move closer to a world title shot with another win. Guevara (27-5, 12 KOs), a native of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, is a two-time bantamweight world title challenger who pushed then-champion Leo Santa Cruz the distance in December 2012. He fought Shakur Stevenson last July on short notice and gave a valiant effort before being stopped in the third round.
Efe Ajagboa Takes on Razvan Cojanu on March 7th
Undefeated heavyweight sensation Efe Ajagba will take on former title challenger Razvan Cojanu in the 10-round co-main event of FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday, March 7 from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.
The night of heavyweight action begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and is headlined by undefeated Polish star and Brooklyn native Adam Kownacki looking to thrill his hometown crowd when he takes on Robert Helenius in a 12-round WBA Heavyweight Title eliminator. The opening attraction will see rising heavyweight Frank Sánchez step in to face Philadelphia’s Joey Dawejko in a 10-round battle.
Tickets for the event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions, are on sale now and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and barclayscenter.com. Tickets are also available for purchase now at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.
The non-televised undercard lineup will include exciting Brooklyn native Zachary “Zungry” Ochoa (20-1, 7 KOs) in an eight-round super lightweight fight and undefeated Cuban heavyweight Robert Alfonso (19-0-1, 9 KOs) in an eight or 10-round attraction against Puerto Rico’s Carlos Negrón (20-3, 16 KOs).
Rounding out the action is heavyweight prospect Steven Torres (2-0, 2 KOs) in a four-round bout and the pro debut of Boston’s Francis Hogan in a four-round middleweight fight.
Nigeria’s Ajagba (12-0, 10 KOs) has increased his opposition in his recent fights and passed those tests by getting off the canvas to stop Iago Kiladze in December 2019 and defeating fellow 2016 Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen by 10-round unanimous decision in July, both on FOX. The 25-year-old Ajagba gained widespread notoriety in August 2018 when his opponent, Curtis Harper, walked out of the ring after touching gloves to start the first round. Ajagba won the fight without throwing a punch as Harper was disqualified. Living in Stafford, Texas and training with renowned veteran trainer Ronnie Shields, Ajagba will make his 2020 debut and third career appearance at Barclays Center on March 7, after four victories in 2019.
Born in Romania and now residing in Burbank, California, Cojanu (17-6, 9 KOs) most recently won a decision over Tamaz Zadishvili in October 2019. The 32-year-old has fought professionally since 2011 and rebounded from a defeat in his first pro fight to win 16 of his next 17 bouts. He defeated Zhiyu Wu in 2016 to earn a title fight against Joseph Parker, which he lost by decision in 2017. Cojanu would then go on to challenge top heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz, plus rising contenders Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman, in three straight fights from 2018 until his most recent triumph.
Joseph Parker to Face Winters in Frisco
Joseph Parker will return to action against Shawndell Winters at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday February 29, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK.
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Parker (26-2 20 KOs) is back on the hunt to regain his World champion status having been forced out of an October clash with Derek Chisora in London after a spider bite on his leg led to an illness that robbed the Kiwi of a fight with the all-action Brit.
The former WBO ruler had teed up a mouth-watering clash with ‘Del Boy’ having stopped Alex Leapai in the tenth round of their clash in Providence, RI in June, the first fight of a three-fight deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA.
Parker will look to reignite his charge to elite level and World title showdowns in Texas against Winters, the Illinois man ranked #14 with the WBA and looking to extend his KO run having taken the unbeaten record of Canadian-Ukrainian Oleksandr Teslenko to land the NABA title in Ontario, Canada in September and following that with another stoppage win on enemy turf with a fifth round victory over Poland’s Sergeij Werwejko in November.
Winters, who has KO’d 12 of his 13 wins, will be looking to continue his winning streak and scupper Parker’s plans to become a two-weight World champion, but Parker plans to make an explosive statement on a stacked card in the Lone Star State.
“I am delighted to be back in action on this huge bill in Texas,” said Parker. It was frustrating to be ruled out of the Chisora fight in October, especially in such an unusual way, but I have been on fire in the gym in Las Vegas and we’re ready to get back to business. The division is moving at a great pace and this is a perfect opportunity to show the world that I am one of the elite players in the division.
“Shawndell is on a great run and I know he’ll bring it on February 29 – but I am ready to show that I will become a two-time World champion in 2020 and that starts with a dominant and destructive display in Frisco.”
“This is the biggest fight of my career and I am going to make it count,” said Winters. “I am used to being the underdog, it’s something that I thrive on and if Joseph Parker underestimates me, he’s going to be in for a bad night – because I am going in there to take him out.
“I want to thank Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing USA, DiBella Entertainment and Be Def Sports for the opportunity and special thanks to champion Joseph for taking me as a worthy opponent – but he will live to regret it!”
“It’s great to have Joseph back in action early in the year,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “The Heavyweight division is red-hot right now, and it’s important for Joseph to make a statement and remind the champions and fellow challengers that he’s coming for them – but Shawndell is on a roll and will. be desperate to take a huge scalp in the shape of the Kiwi on a massive night in Texas.”
“Shawndell is a very tough competitor who recently moved up to Heavyweight. He’s already pulled off two consecutive upsets against favored opponents, and the fight before that should have been a third,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “He’s looking for his biggest upset yet against former World champion Joseph Parker. This is a tremendous opportunity for this ex-Cruiserweight Rocky from Harvey, Illinois. I believe he is a live underdog.”
Parker’s clash with Winters is part of a huge night of action in Texas topped by a mouthwatering Welterweight clash between Mikey Garcia (39-1 30 KOs) and Jessie Vargas (29-2-2 11 KOs).
Two huge World title bouts feature as Britain’s longest reigning World champion Kal Yafai (26-0 15 KOs) puts his WBA World Super-Flyweight title on the line against the former pound-for-pound king and four weight World ruler Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (48-2 40 KOs) and rising Mexican sensation Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1 12 KOs) makes the first defense of his WBC World Flyweight title against unbeaten European champion Jay Harris (17-0 9 KOs) – with more fights to be confirmed for the card imminently.
Stevie Ortiz-Damon Allen Headlines Philly Special on March 27th
It should be another all-Philly classic when lightweights Stevie Ortiz and Damon Allen collide over 10 rounds for Ortiz’ Pennsylvania state lightweight championship on Friday evening, March 27, at the 2300 Arena.
The Ortiz-Allen showdown will headline a seven-bout card dubbed Philly Special by Raging Babe, aka Michelle Rosado. First fight will start at 7:30 p.m.
“The recipe for success in Philly always has been Philly vs. Philly,” said Rosado. “It’s what made Philly a great fight town. The hard part today is getting Philly fighters to fight each other so I’m thankful that Steve Ortiz and Damon Allen bought in.
“This fight is happening at the right time for both of them. The winner can break into the world rankings.”
Ortiz won the vacant state 135-pound title last year when he scored a pair of knockdowns en route to a unanimous eight-round decision over another Philadelphian, Jeremy Cuevas, at the Met.
The 26-year-old Ortiz last boxed Sept. 20 at the Parx Casino in Bensalem, PA, when he got off the canvas twice to earn an eight-round majority decision over Alejandro Salinas, of Youngstown, OH. Scores were 75-75, 76-74, 76-74.
A pro since 2015, Ortiz is 11-0, 3 KOs, and he has boxed only two men with losing records. Ortiz is managed and trained by Chino Rivas and promoted by DiBella Entertainment.
“It’s a big fight because we are both very talented,” Ortiz said. “It will draw a lot of attention because of our amateur backgrounds. A lot of people always wanted to see us fight.
“As amateurs, Damon was always the top guy in his division. I was the top in my division. We went to the National Golden Gloves together and we fought great fights. This match-up is going to bring the best out of us.”
“This is a great opportunity for Stevie Ortiz in a hometown, Philly Special main event against Damon Allen,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “This is reminiscent of the great Philly fights of old. The card is stacked and will be a great representation of Philly boxing and the best of local shows. I look forward to working with Raging Babe to secure a television or streaming partner for the March 27 Philly Special. Philly Special will be special and I can’t wait for fans to see it.”
Allen, 27, last boxed Oct. 25 at the 2300 Arena when he scored a unanimous six-round decision over Dieumerci Nzau, of Silver Spring, MD. That marked Allen’s first fight in his hometown in more than four years.
A pro since 2013, Allen is 16-1-1, 5 KOs. He owns a pair of victories over Mexican veterans Gamaliel Diaz and Martin Honorio.
Allen is managed by Tim VanNewhouse and David McWater, and he is trained by Brian McIntyre.
“I never wanted to be the best in the city; I want to be the best period,” Allen said. “I know he’s looking at it like it’s a big fight. This isn’t my first rodeo in a fight like this. I know what to bring and what not to bring. My mind is straight. He is going to be game.
“I have more experience in and out of the ring. He’s just another fighter in front of me. I live a boxing lifestyle. I told him to ‘come ready and prepared’ because I’m coming 110 percent.”
Philly Special is promoted by Raging Babe, in association with DiBella Entertainment. Hall-of-Fame promoter, Russell Peltz will handle the matchmaking duties.
Blair Cobbs Media Workout Quotes
Undefeated NABF Welterweight Champion Blair “The Flair” Cobbs (14-0-1, 10 KOs) hosted a Las Vegas media workout Saturday in preparation for his upcoming bout against Samuel Kotey (23-2, 16 KOs) which takes place Friday, February 14 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Cobbs, who is managed by Greg Hannely of Prince Ranch Boxing and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, will make his 2020 debut as part of the of Ryan Garcia versus Francisco Fonseca card, which will air live on DAZN at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.
Here is what Cobbs had to say Saturday from the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in Las Vegas:
“This camp has been amazing. I’ve had nothing but the greatest sparring partners to get prepared for this upcoming bout. My trainer Brandon Woods has been sharpening up my tools and I’m ready to preform at my best on fight night. Everyone can expect to see the best Blair “The Flair” Cobbs possible. This is a sport filled with entertainment and I call myself “The most exciting man in Boxing”.
“On Valentines Day, I’m going to steal the show and all the fans watching on DAZN will see an amazing performance from me. My opponent, Samuel Kotey, is a tough hombre who is coming to win, but I have other plans for him. There is nothing he can do that will outmatch my skill and desire to win this fight.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience having the Mexican fans behind me being that they know that’s where I first learned how to box when I fled to Guadalajara, Mexico. It’s been a hell of a journey coming back to the United States from Mexico, where I learned to fight the Mexican style, always throwing big shots to entertain the fans. Fighting in the amateurs in Mexico, is like fighting in the pros. Sometimes we didn’t use headgear. It was crazy, but it made me the fighter I am today.”
GH3 Promotions Fighters in Action this Weekend
Six members of the GH3 Promotions stable will be in action this weekend, as the company will have three fighters featured on ShoBox: The New Generation card on SHOWTIME (10 PM ET/PT) on Friday night from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.
In the main event, GH3’s Thomas Mattice (15-1-1, 11 KOs) of Cleveland, Ohio takes on Isaac Cruz (18-1-1, 14 KOs) of Mexico City in a 10-round lightweight bout.
In the co-feature, Adam Lopez (19-3-2, 9 KOs) of San Antonio, Texas battles undefeated Raeese Aleem (15-0, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas in an eight-round super bantamweight contest.
Opening up the television portion of the card will be Derrick Colemon Jr. (11-0, 8 KOs) of Detroit taking on fellow undefeated fighter Joseph Jackson (15-0, 12 KOs) of Greensboro, N.C., in an eight-round super welterweight bout.
Before the camera’s begin rolling, undefeated heavyweight Norman Neely (5-0, 5 KOs) of Paterson, N.J., takes on Jersey City’s Nicoy Clarke (2-5) in Neeley’s first scheduled six-round bout.
Also Friday night in Philadelphia, middleweight Ian Green (12-2, 9 KOs) of Paterson, N.J., takes on Ray Barringer (6-3, 4 KOs) of Cleveland, Ohio in a six-round middleweight fight.
Saturday night in Nashville, Tenn., former National Golden Gloves champion and undefeated Roney Hines (7-0, 5 KOs) of Cleveland battles Johnnie Langston (8-1, 3 KOs) of Sarasota, Fla., in a six-round heavyweight bout.
“We have all our guys in tough this weekend,” said Vito Mielnicki of GH3 Promotions. “I am really looking forward to seeing these fights, and how our fighters perform. A couple of the guys, namely Mattice and Lopez are on the cusp of some big opportunities. I think Colemon has a chance to establish himself as a top prospect. Green has won on ShoBox before and wants to get back there. And the two big heavyweights, Hines and Neeley, are taking the next steps on becoming top-prospects themselves.”
Richard Medina and Hector Coronado Score KO Wins in Mexico
Prince Ranch Boxing’s undefeated blue-chip prospects picked up big wins tonight as featherweight Richard Medina (7-0, 6 KO), and welterweight Hector Coronado (5-0, 4 KOs), both picked up spectacular wins on Friday, February 7, 2020, at the Centro de Convenciones in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico
The 19-year old Medina, who resides in San Antonio, TX, picked up a first-round TKO victory.
“I worked hard and had the performance I envisioned,” said Medina. “My promoter TMB & PRB Entertainment have done an excellent job with my career and my performances in the ring are showing. Between Rick Morones and Alex Draghici getting me fights, Greg Hannley of Prince Ranch Boxing managing me, I know I’m in good hands and I feel unstoppable.”
Coronado, a resident of Del Rio, TX, scored a second-round knockout.
“I am focused on becoming a world champion and this was the type of performance that puts me on that path,” said Coronado “I’m staying busy, and I am very focused. I am looking to fight a lot this year. I have a great team, who I know will keep me active and put me in the best possible positions.”
“Both Medina and Coronado are fighters with the skillset and abilities to be in position for great opportunities down the road,” said manager Greg Hannely, president of Prince Ranch Boxing. “What stands out about both fighters is their punching power, with some incredible knockouts early in their career, which makes them very fan-friendly.”
“These kids are both putting the time and effort into their training camps to have good performances,” said Rick Morones, of TMB & PRB Entertainment. “Medina and Coronado are crowd-pleasing fighters, who are looking to put on a show. Their work ethic is apparent in their fighting style.”
“It so exciting being a part of both of these young fighters’ careers,” said Alex Draghici, of TMB & PRB Entertainment. “They both leave everything in the ring, and the fans can tell by the type of performances they put on. I see only bigger and bigger things for them in the future.”
What About Jorge Juarez? The Man Who Nearly Beat Canelo Alvarez
By: Brian Strahan
Mexico, has its own California. Baja California. A feral peninsula, encompassed by the Pacific Ocean to its west, and the Sea of Cortez to its east. At its tip, bordering that other California, lies Tijuana. A city known in the past as much for its pull of Hollywood celebrities, who could gamble in relative anonymity, as it was for criminality, which eventually, morphed into a city more associated with cultural growth.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
It was here that Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez came close to suffering his first professional defeat. An opening flurry of victories as a 15-year-old, came at something of a canter. Similar to the only man who would ever defeat him – Floyd Mayweather Jr – Canelo had a family in his corner. Just not his own. Not far from his modest home in Juanacatlan on the fringes of Guadalajara, his brother Rigoberto introduced him to Chepo and Eddy Reynoso.
From the Julian Magdaleno Gym, were the father and son team trained the flame-haired Canelo, his route was plotted. Impressed by his speed of thought and power, the Reynoso’s didn’t feel, but knew he was ready. Such was his ferocity at the 2005 Junior Nationals, in the southern, busy city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez; no one his age, apart from the foolhardy, wanted to face him.
Turning professional at such a young age, is no big deal in Mexico. Other nations may scoff at the youthful age that boys are thrown in amongst men to fight. But Mexican boxing can point to the robust nature of their success, rooted in the tough start they allow their young boxers. Mexico can boast having more than 150 professional world champions in its pugilistic history. Only the United States can champion a stronger record.
So, there was nothing unorthodox in Canelo facing fellow Mexican Abraham Gonzalez in his first fight; Gonzalez three years his senior. That chasm in physical development, a lot wider in teens then a corresponding chasm for even marginally older boxers. It mattered little, however. A total knock out in the fourth and final round for Canelo.
Little changed for his second fight against Pablo Alvarado, very much his elder at 26. It was, physically and literally, man against boy. Again, an irrelevance. Alvarado lasted two rounds before Canelo ended his night.
The third test of this fledgling career would prove more demanding. Miguel Vazquez – again three years his senior – may have been making his professional debut, but he had genuine potential. Potential that he would go on to fulfill. But this welterweight fight was out of reach for a fighter who would go on to win a multitude of titles. His only defeat in a valiant 2013 unification loss to Mayweather by majority decision. Still though, against Vazquez, Canelo was made work. The split decision went his way.
Pedro Lopez, a month later, didn’t offer a similar challenge. Back in Canelo’s hometown of Guadalajara, Lopez, a fighter from the former colonial city of Tabasco, had little vigour to offer. Another knock out. It would be the beginning of a trend in a career that bore little fruit.
So on to the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana. Perhaps more famed for its seminal Friday night dose of Lucha Libre; the Mexican variant of professional wrestling. With its spirited masks and costumes and comic-book style heroes and villains; it appeals to the masses as a sport and entertainment.
On June 17th, 2006, there was substantially less of the fanfare for the meeting of Canelo and Jorge Juarez. Not that the night itself was sedate. Hector Velazquez, a Tijuana local, and a solid career fighter, was the main draw. After he discarded compatriot Guadalupe Hernandez in a deeply one-sided affair, the crowd simply dispersed.
The undercard, as Canelo and Juarez were, came after the main event. Perhaps not the most carefully structured running order. What it meant was a sparse attendance and a quieter atmosphere, despite Juarez being a local. But three victories from eight against a relative unknown, was not enough to keep seats filled.
Maybe they should have stayed. What was missed was Canelo being tested. That was the function of Juarez. To try the properly strong Canelo against someone who would hold firm. Where some previous opponents had struggled to match his intensity, Juarez used the physicality and experience that came with his 8-year advantage. Canelo tired in the fourth-round bout and Juarez made connections.
If he didn’t quite school him; Juarez was in his element. This was as evenly matched a welterweight contest as there could have been. Juarez would have more defeats than victories up until his retirement in 2011. In 2015 Juarez returned but has had eight defeats on the bounce since.
Still though, the two came together at a time and a night when there was nothing to split them. The triumvirate of judges scored it 37-39, 38-38, 37-39. A one-point difference anywhere along the way could have meant another easily forgotten victory for Canelo. Or it could have meant Juarez being the only person outside of Floyd Mayweather to defeat Canelo in his professional career; to date.
How much relevance it will have on Saturday, who knows? But it has relevance for Juarez. And not because he can dine off a former glory. But because he showed he could match someone who was on his way to becoming one of the world’s best.