Unbeaten Indonesian featherweight titlist Chris John will make his U.S. debut on February 28, when he defends his WBA title against Rocky Juarez in Juarez's hometown of Houston. The John-Juarez bout will be on the televised undercard of the lightweight championship fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and another Houston fighter, Juan Diaz, reports Dan Rafael:
The deal for John-Juarez was completed Wednesday after talks for Juarez's proposed bout with titleholder Steve Luevano ended.
A Thursday press conference is scheduled in Houston to formally announce the fight as well as the previously announced Marquez-Diaz bout.
"We have talked for a while about the right fight for John to come to the U.S. and now that time is here," Schaefer said. "It's a big fight for Chris John and the right spot for him. Everyone has accused him of just fighting in Indonesia but now he comes into the lion's den to defend his title in Rocky's hometown. It's a big showcase for both of them. For Rocky, it's an opportunity to finally win a world title and do it in his hometown, and for Chris John it's an opportunity to silence the people who say he only fights in Asia. He's not just coming to the U.S. for a fight, he's coming here to fight in his opponent's backyard."
At the end of the article, Juarez's manager Shelly Finkel says, "If Rocky is going to get a title, this is his best shot. If he can't do it, he just can't do it and he'll be one of the best fighters who never won a title. But if Rocky beats him, he beats the best guy in the division."
Frankly, I disagree with the assessment that John is Juarez's best hope for a world title, and with the way they're talking about Juarez as a "now or never" guy, I think it kind of speaks to exactly how low expectations from his management seem to be. Finkel doesn't say that he believes Juarez can beat John, he says Juarez believes he can beat John after seeing him on tape. It's "if" Rocky can get a title, Chris John is his best shot -- not Rocky will beat Chris John. It's a moot point, really, but it's rare to see managers or promoters talk like that.
And as much as I'd like to see Rocky win, simply because he's a solid fighter and a good, hard-working dude, I don't think he can beat John, who is a terrific fighter even if I don't consider him among the 20 best pound-for-pound, which most would if only because of his status as the world's best featherweight and what is nearing a five-year world title reign. I'm not even trying to discredit John's record completely, because he has a win over Juan Manuel Marquez and beat Hiroyuki Enoki last time out. But Renoit Caballero? Zaiki Takemoto? Jose Rojas as a world title challenger in 2007?
Either way, it's good to see Chris John finally coming to the States, and taking on a top contender. Chances are, he dominates Juarez. That's just my gut feeling after seeing them both fight several times. I think Chris is a bit out of Rocky's depth. But it's better that it's happening than another cupcake defense for John.