Breaking Down Juarez vs. Raheem
By Chris Robinson (July 13, 2004) 
Rocky Juarez
HBO has always been known for their excellent matchmaking, especially when it comes to the late night series ‘Boxing After Dark.’ They have delivered some great match-ups and showcased some of boxing’s finest rising talents over the years. In the series’ first installment we witnessed Marco Antonio Barrera polish off Kennedy McKinney in the final round of their back and forth epic, and the series has grown from there. Fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Arturo Gatti, Diego Corrales, Erik Morales, and several others were featured at a young age, giving us an early glimpse of the future landscape the sport would rest on. The series often features showdowns between undefeated young guns and that is part of what we have July 17th.

The July 17th card is a tripleheader featuring Juan Diaz vs. Lavka Sim for the WBA Lightweight strap, Rocky Juarez meeting Zahir Raheem, and Kermit Cintron taking on hard punching Teddy Reid. All fights look to be exciting but the match-up that sticks out most to me is Raheem vs. Juarez.

In this featherweight duel we have two undefeated men crossing paths in center ring at the Reliant Park in Houston, TX. Juarez will be putting his 20-0 (14 KO’s) record on the line against the 25-0 (15 KO’s) ledger Raheem has amassed and only one man can come out on top.

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The match-up is intriguing to me because there is a unique blend of styles each fighter brings to the ring. Juarez is by no means a slugger, but I have always looked at him as a thinking pressure fighter who likes to break his opponents down. Raheem appears to be more of a counterpuncher with some serious hand speed that could give Juarez fits. Juarez has a left hook to the liver that would make Julio Cesar Chavez proud, and he will most likely be trying to pin Raheem against the ropes in efforts of wearing the Philadelphia native down.

Raheem also has a stinging jab and throws it very effectively, adjusting his body and getting out of the way before his opponents have time to respond. If he is able to box and land his jab, he could take control of the fight away from young Juarez.

The men have a common opponent in gritty trial horse Joe Morales and their fights with Morales had distinctively different results. Against Raheem, Morales was constantly one step behind and couldn’t mount a sustained attack. Morales had trouble with Raheem’s speed and movement, and was even decked in the 4th round with a blistering combination. Morales had no answer and would surrender to Raheem on a points verdict in a rather dull affair.

Two years later Morales tangled with Juarez and had much more success. In this fight Morales appeared to be in great shape and took an early lead with a second round knockdown of the 2000 Olympian. Morales was fast on his feet and controlled the fight with a boxing style to offset Juarez’ pressure.

Juarez did have his moments, especially with the hammering left hook, and seemed to turn up the pressure late in the fight. When the final bell rang the decision seemed to be up in the air and I found myself wondering if I was witnessing yet another undefeated prospect bite the dust. The scores read 97-92 across the board, all in favor of Juarez. The Houston native had come away with the win but showed some weaknesses that a fighter like Raheem should be able to capitalize on.

After browsing some boxing forums I noticed several fans feel that Raheem is going to surprise many and come away with the win. Raheem himself has stated that he is going to knock Juarez out. I don’t see Raheem ending things via KO but I do feel he will do enough to come away with the win. My reasoning is somewhat simple. I feel that if the fight is a boxing match, Raheem will be one step ahead of Juarez and will work his way toward a hard fought decision victory. If the fight turns into a brawl, then you have to like Juarez, who does great work when he has his opponent tracked down and is able to let his punches go.

I feel Raheem has enough savvy to make it a boxing contest and that is why I see him coming out on top. To me this is a fight littered with question marks and hopefully these two will be able to give us an answer come July 17th.
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