Rocky Juarez is preparing for his rematch against undefeated featherweight champion Chris John. The fight is scheduled for September 19th, on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Juarez, 28 (20) – 4 – 1 is looking for a breakout win after coming up short against some of the biggest names in the sport over the last several years.
We’re just about a month out from your rematch with Chris John, how’s your training going?
RJ: Training is going great man. Basically I never stopped training after he cancelled the previous fight.
So you feel like you’ll be in great condition by the time the fight rolls around…
RJ: Oh definitely, and I think everything happens for a reason. For whatever reason he wasn’t able to fight the last fight. I’m not one to say because I don’t know for sure, but it gave me that much more time to prepare myself for him.
So you think it was an advantage for you to have that fight cancelled?
RJ: Well, I could see it in a lot of ways… But it just benefits me more to prepare for him.
How do you feel in general, with your health and your vision, obviously you had the surgeries a couple of years ago…
RJ: Well my vision isn’t 100%, but it’s definitely improved since the surgery. I feel like t just gives me a better look (laughs) at where the punches are coming from. I really don’t think about it, I don’t think about my vision when I’m in the ring.
What are you working on that’s going to change the outcome of this fight as compared to the first meeting?
RJ: Well, you know this fight I’m going to be throwing more punches. I’m going to be more prepared. We’re working on a certain style, Ronnie [Shields, his trainer] has me doing something specific for the fight. So I just continue doing it during sparring and picturing it working and it should help out come September 19th.
So you have some new tactics for this fight?
RJ: Oh definitely, you always want to fight a different fight, every fight. I know Chris John is going to come out with a different fight, so you have to expect the unexpected.
Did you think a draw was fair in the first fight? I’m sure you’ve gone back and watched it, how’d you feel about it afterwards?
RJ: I felt, even after watching it, I felt that I had won the beginning of the fight, the beginning rounds of the fight. I knew I had given up, and I said it even after the fight in the interview, when I got cut… it kind of just kept me on the defensive side and I gave up maybe two, three rounds, at least two or three rounds.
I felt that it affected the outcome of the fight. I felt that if I had been not so much worried abut the cut and trying to be cautious and careful to not be hit in the same spot and continued fighting with my game plan I would have definitely come out with the victory in the fight. I think I would have probably even maybe dropped him because he was so out of it at the end of the fight.
Are you more comfortable at featherweight or did you move back down solely for the opportunity to fight John?
RJ: Well, I’ve been jumping up and down for the last four or five years in my career. Being given the opportunity for the world title, and me being blessed with this many shots at a title, which I feel like I’ve earned but at the same time I feel very fortunate to be with a great manager like Shelly Finkel who gives me these shots… So I feel comfortable at 126 pounds, but it’s a lot easier to make 130 pounds, so either way I’m comfortable.
So you’re ready to take any fight that comes at you in either of these classes right now.
RJ: Yea, when I was preparing myself for Chris John in California on the Victor Ortiz card… Chris John backed out and they were trying to find a replacement fighter. I told my promoters I would fight anybody, anybody at 126 pounds or 130 pounds as long as they were a right hander, no southpaws.
There were a lot of critics that came and talked trash about who am I to pick my opponent… but I wasn’t picking my opponent, I was just saying no south paws for the fact that I hadn’t trained [for that] and it was just four or five days away from the fight. So I had to turn down the money and the fight, not knowing when I was going to fight again. But I felt like I made the right decision and I was very confident. I’m 29 years old, I’m at a point in my career when I have to make the right choices.
Considering that, that you’re closing in on 30 and have yet to win a world title, what are your long term plans in the sport? How much longer will you be a professional fighter?
RJ: I feel like once I win a world title man, come September 19th, I’ve always said to myself that winning a world title is going to make me a better fighter. It’s going to make me always stay in shape… and I always am, I’m a gym rat, but it’ll give me that little extra edge that I have to keep my title and they’re gonna be coming after it. So I feel like once I win a world title I’m going to become a better fighter. Marquez was one of those fighters, it took him about eight, nine years to win a world title but once he became a champion he’s been at the top of the game since.
You’ve mentioned the shots you’ve gotten… you’ve fought Marco Antonio Barrera twice, Juan Manuel Marquez and now this will be the second fight against Chris John. What have your fights against that caliber of world class opposition taught you?
RJ: To me it just shows to the fans and to the critics and to everyone that I’ve never ducked any fighter. Whoever the opponent is I’m willing to fight, just as long as I had time to prepare myself. I don’t think I’m a fighter who’s a tune up fighter, I don’t like to look at myself like a tune up/step up fighter. I’ve been in this profession for going on nine years and I fought against the best fighters out there.
Barrera I thought I beat him the first team, he beat me the second time. Marquez, I went 12 rounds with an accidental, bad cut from the first round. Now that I think about the Marquez fight, I always wanted to have a rematch with Marquez. I was able to go the 12 rounds, he did beat me but people don’t look at the fact that I suffered a bad cut from an accidental head butt, it wasn’t a punch. Also, with my vision, having double vision for so long it had a big effect on the results.
After those losses have you ever sat back and thought, maybe I should take a couple of easier fights to build up a winning streak or…
RJ: No, no, no. Not at all man. When I lost the fight against Soto, I wanted a rematch against Soto. He’s another big name fighter and he’s definitely proven himself after beating me and giving me my first loss. I’ve always wanted to step in there and fight the best, top fighters. I’ve been blessed and very fortunate that I’ve been able to compete against top level fighters. I think fighting the best fighters proves to yourself where you belong. Basically, I’m going to win my world title. Even if that title doesn’t happen to come my way, I’m always going to feel fortunate and blessed that I was able to fight the best fighters out there and never ducked anybody.
Staying busier and getting into an offensive groove are always priorities for you during your fights. Can you point to anything in some of those past fights that stopped that from happening once you get into the ring? You mentioned some of the cuts you suffered against John and Marquez for example, but is it a state of mind or is it something you can work on in training or what do you think about that?
RJ: Well I’m at a point in my career when I can’t leave nothing behind. This is probably my last opportunity at a world title. I feel like I’m being given this opportunity by Golden Boy Promotions and Chris John as well, and my manger giving me this shot again. I feel like once I win this world title, I can be in the driver’s side.
I can fight big name fighters and that’s all I’ve cared to fight, big name fighters. Rafael Marquez is probably going to move up to 126 pounds, so I’m sure there’s Mexican fans and boxing fans who’d like to see that, or even Israel Vazquez who I’m sure is probably ready to move up. So whoever, being able to fight big name fighters is something I’ve always loved doing. A step up to make me go to the gym and it pumps me up and puts a smile on my face when I’m going against these fighters.
So what can we expect to see from Rocky Juarez on September 19?
RJ: I’m going to come out there and one thing I know is I’m going to be throwing bombs and staying active. Chris John is a volume puncher, and I tell people yea he can punch, he can crack a little bit. He’s a mover, very slippery but I think the fact that the fight isn’t here in my hometown it takes a little bit of pressure away.
Fighting in Vegas on the undercard of a big card like Marquez vs. Mayweather… I’ve been in that, this ain’t my first rodeo. This will be Chris John’s second fight in the states, but first on the big show and people are going to be watching. So we’ll see how he is going to come out and take it, and like I said this ain’t my first time.
Thanks Rocky and good luck on September 19.