Rocky Juarez was a silver medalist for the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics and has gone 27-3 in his first 30 bouts as a pro.
But Juarez, who faces Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., for the WBC super featherweight title in a bout that will be broadcast nationally on Showtime, is defined more by the three losses than by the 27 wins.
His three defeats have come when he's stepped up the competition level and bid for a world title.
He was upset by Humberto Soto on Aug. 20, 2005, when they met for the interim WBC featherweight title in Rosemont, Ill. He then lost back-to-back bouts last year to Marco Antonio Barrera for the same belt he's fighting for tonight.
He's clearly given the impression that he's the kind of guy who is capable of beating all but the best fighters in the world.
And that's definitely not an impression he wishes to convey.
"I believe I belong at that level, with the best," Juarez said. "But I understand how it goes. You can't talk about it. You have to do it."
Juarez is kind of like a hitter who tears up Triple-A but gets to the majors and struggles to hit the curve.
It appears at this stage that he's a tick slow and doesn't hit quite hard enough to not only compete with, but defeat, the world's elite fighters.
He nearly upset Barrera in their first meeting, on May 20, 2006, in Los Angeles, in a bout that was originally announced as a draw. But a mistake in adding the scorecards was discovered and it turned out Barrera had won a split decision in a bout many spectators felt Juarez deserved.
But in the rematch, Barrera stepped it up a notch and, for whatever reason, Juarez couldn't match him. Barrera boxed superbly and Juarez generated little offense.
Juarez said that in an odd way, his lethargic performance in that bout was borne out of his passion to win.
"One of best things I've done in my career is I've been able to adapt to styles," Juarez said. "I wanted to win so badly, I didn't adjust. I didn't adapt to what he was doing, which was boxing. I give him credit. He fought a smart fight and I didn't make him fight the way I wanted to him.
"I wanted to win so badly, I kept moving forward and I wasn't switching up and making him fight a different fight. He was able to pretty much just throw that jab and I never made him do anything differently."
He'll need to have figured out that flaw, because Marquez is a superior boxer to Barrera. Under the tutelage of Nacho Beristain, Marquez has become more than the stereotypical brawling, left-hook happy Mexican fighter.
But Oscar De La Hoya, who is promoting the fight, said Marquez wants to make a statement and may not box. If Marquez wins, he'll likely get a 2008 shot at Manny Pacquiao, with whom he fought to a memorable draw in 2004.
"He's aware people are talking about a Pacquiao fight," De La Hoya said of Marquez.
"And he knows the implications. He's still kind of an outsider at the highest level and he has a lot to prove. He wants to go out and be impressive. So I think you could see him there trading with Juarez. That would make it a dangerous fight, because Rocky has very heavy hands, but I think Marquez is really determined to put on a show."
Juarez had better hope that he is, or he'll have little hope at the upset.
And even though this is boxing and not baseball, if Juarez fails on Saturday, it will be four strikes and he's out.
It would be difficult to imagine Juarez getting another title shot any time soon if he'snot able to pull it off on Saturday.
"I'm not going in this fight for a paycheck, I'm going in this fight to win that belt and that's all I'm focused on," Juarez said. "All the fights I've had in the past have helped make me the fighter I am now. I know what I can do in there and I believe in my heart I'm going to win this fight. I don't even think any other way, because I know I've prepared the right way and I know I am going to get that belt."
- Rocky Juarez
- Marco Antonio Barrera
- Juan Manuel Marquez