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Juarez - In Young title fight in Korea
By David A. Avila
November 18, 2004
It was minutes before entering the arena in Seoul, Korea to fight for the world title when a handful of people entered Mariana Juarez’s locker room to give her a greeting.

“No decision, you’re going to get knocked out,” said three different Koreans in English to a surprised Juarez.

And what did Juarez say when it was translated into Spanish?

“They’re dreaming,” she said.

Juarez beat former flyweight champion In-Young Lee (8-1) in a 10-round fight for the IFBA junior bantamweight title last Sunday and despite the jet lag she’s still flying with glee after fulfilling her dream of a world title.

“I still can’t believe I won the title,” said Juarez (13-3-3) who arrived yesterday and is still suffering from lack of rest.

Lee proved to be a fire hydrant of a fighter who withstood punishing shots throughout the fight but kept trying until the final bell. But she was out-gunned by Juarez’s accuracy and ability to slip punches.

“Mariana used her left jab and left hook to win the fight,” said Ben Lira, who trains Juarez out of the South El Monte Boxing Club. “Mariana was just the stronger fighter. It was as simple as that.”

Though both fighters seemingly fired the same amount of punches, Juarez connected two for every one punch landed by Lee.

“It was kind of strange because I would land three or four hard punches and the crowd would stay silent. But she would land one punch and the crowd would respond,” said Juarez, 24, who had never fought anywhere except Mexico and the U.S. “I was afraid I was losing the fight because no one seemed to notice when I landed punches.”

Though neither fighter scored a knockdown, Juarez consistently backed Lee up every round with thudding left jabs and wicked rights to the body. The Korean fighter never quit and kept trying to penetrate Juarez’s defense but the stinging jabs made it difficult.

In the eighth round, Lee increased the tempo but toward the end of the round her legs wobbled from weariness. Juarez, though still punching, kept at a deliberate pace.

“I couldn’t do more. I wanted to do more but I just couldn’t get into a rhythm. I think it was because I haven’t fought in a long time,” said Juarez, who had her best round in the 10th when a tired Lee was pummeled and held Juarez. Ironically the referee warned Juarez for holding who merely punched at the lurching Lee.

“When the fight finished I just prayed,” said Juarez hadn’t fought in seven months and worried she didn’t do enough to convince the judges. “I felt that I won but I knew I was in a foreign country with a foreign crowd and foreign judges. I just prayed.”

The judges scored the fight 96-95 for Lee and 97-95 and 96-95 for Juarez.

“I didn’t know what they were saying. I heard my name but I thought maybe they were saying it was a draw,” said Juarez. Then they raised her hand as the victor. “I cried. That’s all I could do was cry.”

Lira, who has seen many fighters go to other countries and lose, said he was proud of the Korean judges. “They really gave us a fair shake.”

The Korean people showered Juarez with dozens of flowers. Many walked up to her and told Juarez she is in the wrong profession.

“You should be a (fashion) model,” said numerous people at the Korean arena.

Still excited about the fight, Juarez said it was a memorable experience but now she needs rest.

“I’m so tired still,” Juarez said. “But next I want to win another championship. I want to win all of the championships at this weight level.”

Linda Carrillo, a former U.S. National amateur champion who saw the tape of the fight, said it was clear that Juarez showed prowess in the title fight.

“She was the more accurate puncher, the harder puncher and she just looked more skillful than the other fighter who was very tough,” said Carrillo. “Mariana is just a very skillful fighter.”

Juarez said she welcomes a rematch with Elena “Baby Doll” Reid who fought to a draw a couple of years back or a match with Germany’s Regina Halmich who fought to a draw with Reid several months back.

“I want to fight them all,” said Juarez.


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