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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The man who matched Alvarez

By Salvador Rodriguez
ESPNDeportes.com

The night of June 17, 2006, didn't define the life of Jorge Juarez, but it was a definitive moment for both him and Canelo Alvarez.

Juarez, now 35 and working as an assistant in a gym in Tijuana, Mexico, retired in 2011 because his quality as a boxer no longer matched his courage in the ring. With the passage of time, he increasingly values a fight that at that point simply represented the first draw of his career, one that came against a kid who showed a bit more than his previous opponents, yet still didn't seem to be anything special.

"They brought me in to read him, to test him," Juarez said of the promoters who matched him with Alvarez, "but it ended up that we were almost alone in the arena. There were no people left because Hector Velazquez's feature fight had finished, so it was practically just the judges, the referee and us.

"That kid -- because he was still a kid -- he threw his right hand at me with all his force. He was a one-hit fighter, and the truth is, he was strong. But he got tired in the second round, and I started to get my hands in there, and at the end they had to make a decision. At the time, I felt that I had won, but they called it a draw [37-39, 39-37, and 38-38], they favored his youth and desire."

That night, Hector Velazquez had destroyed Guadalupe Contreras in the title bout in the card's main event. The people who stayed to watch the follow-up fight were Juarez's friends and family, plus some promoter employees, on a night when Alvarez wound up learning much more than he had in his previous four bouts -- all victories.

"The fight was hard-fought, he was a bit of a novice, but we got it on good," Juarez said. "I had already had a lot of fights with tough rivals. I was like 27 years old and he was like, 16. At the time, that fight didn't mean anything to me because I never thought he would thrive the way he is doing now. I never thought that people would end up admiring him the way they do now, which is why now this is a story."

Even now, Juarez would love to return to the ring -- he still believes in his abilities -- but his loved ones don't want it because they don't want him to keep risking his health for a few more pesos. As a result, Juarez puts his passion for the sport into the Chetos Boxing Club, the gym where he works.

These days, Juarez watches Alvarez's fights at home with his family, remembering the night when he almost marred the undefeated record of junior middleweight titleholder Canelo Alvarez. It's a fight that he remembers today with pride, because not only did he avoid defeat, he also played a part in the making of a future champion.

So what does the only man who has denied Alvarez a win in a professional boxing ring think of the next opponent, Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

"I think that they've pampered Mayweather," Juarez said. "Canelo is already penetrating, he is younger and can beat him. He has improved a lot -- the last time he looked looser. But he needs better defense, because he can hit and take punches, but at this level head-butting is essential, as is being in good condition. Because Mayweather is going to run around all night."