In sports, the phrase “last chance” is overused, particularly in the sport of boxing, where there is always another fight with somebody, somewhere, around the corner.
Nobody fits this example better than 2000 Olympian Ricardo “Rocky” Juarez. In six title bouts, he has never been declared the victor, despite coming excruciatingly close at times. In fact, yours truly wrote in article six years ago stating a bout against Jorge Barrios was his last chance at salvaging his career. At the time, Juarez had been unsuccessful in four title attempts.
He beat Barrios, but then drew and lost to Indonesian Chris John, followed by a streak of five consecutive defeats. Some were to well-known boxers: Vicente Escobedo and Jorge Linares, but others to unknown prospects such as Alejandro Sanabria and Andrew Cancio, and one to a far past his prime Jason Litzau (though the stoppage was debatable, to be succinct.)
In boxing circles, even in his hometown of Houston where he has been adored for years, people wondered out loud why he still chose this rough profession. A man who was once a world class boxer was now an opponent, a stepping stone to young boxers on the rise.
One man never gave up on him. His name is Jay Johns. Formerly an assistant to legendary Ronnie Shields, he had waded into the managerial waters with Omar Henry, who suddenly passed away from cancer. He was looking for his next chance, and took one on Juarez. The two went way back, as he worked with Juarez when Shields was his trainer for a time in the late 2000’s.
Johns arranged for Juarez to face streaking Antonio Escalante in San Antonio in October 2012. Next door to a Vicente Fernandez concert, Juarez played his own tune with his fists as he stopped the younger foe in the eighth round of a thrilling firefight.
Eighteen months later, after several prospective bouts fell through, Juarez got a chance against young contender Rene Alvarado in El Paso. Nobody gave Juarez much of a chance, but he stunningly outworked the prospect and gained a unanimous decision.
Suddenly, Rocky’s career is back on track. On January 26, he faces another young prospect, Robinson Castellanos, in San Antonio, for the WBC Silver belt, an interim title. Castellanos is coming off a huge stoppage victory against unbeaten Californian Ronny Rios, and looking to add Juarez’s name as a notch on his belt that already includes Celestino Caballero. Again, he is older, not favored, but against all odds he has resurrected his career from the ashes. Do not doubt a man with nothing to lose.