By Ryan Maquiñana
Flyweight world titleholder Ava Knight has long lamented her anonymity in America.
“Women’s boxing isn’t that popular here, so I can walk the streets here and not get noticed,” the Oakland resident and Chico, Calif., native told CSNBayArea.com/BoxingScene.com before Saturday’s encounter with Mariana Juarez.
While fellow Northern California fighter Nonito Donaire has been garnering most of the stateside headlines this week for his title fight in Carson, Knight will travel to Juarez’s hometown of Mexico City to appear on a Televisa broadcast that will be viewed by millions south of the border.
“This is definitely the biggest fight of my career,” the 24-year-old Knight (9-1-3, 5 KOs) said. “Juarez has a belt, too, but she’s the top flyweight in the world right now, and I want to beat the best.”
Known as “La Barbie,” Juarez (35-5-3, 16 KOs) is a household name in Mexico not only for her prizefighting accomplishments, but her extracurricular endeavors, having recently posed for the cover for Mexican Playboy magazine.
The flamboyant Juarez has also fired several shots at Knight through the media, vowing to knock her out and taking pictures with her thumb down as she watched a video of the NorCal champion in action.
“I got a chance to see [Juarez] in person, and she don’t have no power to me at all,” said Ben Bautista, Knight’s trainer and manager. “She takes a lot of punches. I look at her record, [and] she’s got almost like 50 fights.
“She’s been stopped before a couple times, she’s been fighting since the 90s and she’s about 32 now. She’s going into the ring with a young lion queen.”
The added attention or the attempted mind games don’t faze Knight, who will now be traveling to Mexico to fight for the third straight time and has the support of Mexican promoter Hector Garcia.
“What she’s doing doesn’t concern me,” Knight said of Juarez’s antics. “If it puts more light on the fight, that’s great. Everything that I do, I make sure I’m there to win.
“Her job is to either intimidate me or make me look bad, and I don’t see a problem with what she’s doing. It doesn’t bother me at all, because at the end of the day, we’re getting in the ring and talking with our fists.”
Spending her time between the new Champ Nation gym in West Oakland and Big Bear to build her endurance in a high-altitude environment, Knight is leaving nothing to chance.
“I’ve been sparring with Kaliesha West, and she’s not only a world champion, she fights two weight classes heavier than Juarez, so I’m definitely ready for October 13th,” Knight said.
Since drawing with West at the 118-pound bantamweight limit last year, Knight has steamrolled the competition back at 112 pounds, impressively stopping Arely Mucino and Hongfah Tor Buamas, while outslugging Susana Vazquez by decision in June.
By comparison, Juarez’s experience cannot be denied; she has almost as many wins as Knight’s three last opponents combined.
“Getting in the ring with a counter-puncher is no different,” Knight said. “Kaliesha was a counter-puncher and I think a stronger fighter [than Juarez], so I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
“Ava’s hungry, and she wants what Mariana has,” Bautista said. “She’s been waiting for this fight for a long time…so now that it’s happening, we’ll see at the end of the day who’s going to be raising their hands.”
The sign outside Chico reads, “Home of [Super Bowl Champion] Aaron Rodgers.” If Knight can pull off yet another upset against Juarez, the city council might have to order a new placard soon.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.