Juarez is no 'Rocky'

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Victor Ortiz was tagged with the defeat, but the real loser on Saturday was Rocky Juarez.

Ortiz, Golden Boy Promotions' heavily hyped super lightweight prospect, engaged in a spirited slugfest with Marcos Maidana at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He knocked Maidana down three times, but succumbed to Maidana's overwhelming power early in the sixth round. Maidana won the interim World Boxing Association super lightweight title with the upset technical knockout victory.

Ortiz' left eye was swollen shut. A nasty laceration traversed his right eyebrow. Blood dripped from his nose and mouth. He didn't argue when referee Raul Caiz Sr. wanted to stop the bout, which HBO analyst Max Kellerman correctly noted.

He clearly was a beaten fighter. But Juarez was the loser.

Juarez was supposed to have faced classy featherweight Chris John in a rematch as the co-main event of the HBO-televised card. John and Juarez fought an entertaining bout in Juarez' hometown of Houston in February, which most observers thought John won, but was inexplicably was scored a draw. The rematch was postponed last week, though, when John withdrew because of illness.

HBO wanted to keep Juarez on the card. So, too, did Golden Boy. There was less than a week remaining and there weren't a lot of options available. But Juarez declined to fight Mario Santiago, a serviceable though hardly great fighter who was offered as a replacement and was acceptable to both Golden Boy and HBO.

He wasn't, though, acceptable to Juarez, who said he didn't want to fight a left-hander on such short notice. He had trained for John and didn't want to take the risk of a loss to a fighter with a dramatically different style.

That was his choice.

But it's my choice to not watch him any more. He calls himself a warrior, but the kind of warriors I want to see in the ring don't worry whether the opponent is left-handed or right-handed. The kinds of warriors who really command respect are those who eagerly accept a challenge, no matter the odds.

It's no loss not getting to see Juarez again. He's 0-4-1 in five world title fights and really should be 0-5, as John clearly deserved to win their first fight. The guy's never won a fight that matters.

He also hasn't earned the right to hand-pick his opponents. Manny Pacquiao has. So, too, has Miguel Cotto. They've faced a who's who of the best fighters of their time. By their accomplishments, they have the earned the right to pick and choose their upcoming opponents. It says a lot about the character of the men that they seek out the best fighters they can find to meet.

And then there are the guys who have never so much as won one title fight saying "no," in the process hurting the broadcast and the ticket-buying public by declining to face a journeyman contender because he's left-handed.

Juarez is not remotely in the Pacquiao/Cotto class. His decision to walk away from a match with Santiago – a fight he likely would have won – proves he'll never be close to either of them. What Juarez did is the equivalent of Zack Greinke backing out of a start because the lineup he would have faced had too many left-handed hitters in it.

Yes, a loss to Santiago would have been devastating for Juarez. Yes, it would have been awkward making adjustments for a left-hander who moves differently and who throws punches from vastly different angles than John. And yes, Santiago would have had nothing to lose and Juarez would have had little to gain from a win.

But Juarez would have made a statement about himself, about his skills and about his belief in his talents if he would have gone out and done away with Santiago.

Don't be fooled into thinking Santiago is some kind of reincarnation of Salvador Sanchez. He's a solid professional fighter, but if Juarez fancies himself a world champion, Santiago is the kind of guy he'll have to beat.

Can you imagine Pacquiao turning the bout down? Or Cotto? Or Juan Manuel Marquez or Israel Vazquez or any of three dozen or so other fighters who epitomize what a warrior really is? Juarez uses the word to describe himself, but he's really a front-runner.

He's a warrior when it suits him, when things are going good, when they're easy and laid out and he knows what to expect.

A boxer proves himself a warrior by his actions in the ring, by his willingness to take on all comers, by his desire to show he's the best.

Rocky Juarez did none of that.

That's why he came up a loser even though he didn't fight on Saturday night.