By Chris Robinson
While in the San Francisco area last Monday I paid a visit to the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos to check out Nonito Donaire in training as he geared up for his February 19th date against bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel. Donaire is in the biggest fight of his life, set to take place at the Mandalay Bay, and I was curious to see how his preparation was coming along.
While inside of the facility I soon noticed an unassuming individual dressed in dark blue right outside of the ring. With his hands fully wrapped and a hoodie covering his head, I could tell that he meant business and would soon discover him to be one of Donaire's chief sparring partners.
Austreberto Juarez, known better as simply 'Beto', would end up giving Donaire some of his most rigorous work on this day. Juarez and the former flyweight champion gave little quarter and their leather was thrown in bunches with each man copping some telling shots. It was just the kind of lively work that Donaire is in need of as he inches closer to his date with destiny against Los Mochis' brazen Montiel.
After Donaire's ten rounds of sparring he would work on various core exercizes in the corner of the gym and I got to know Juarez a little better. The 25-year old was born in Copandaro, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico and moved to Ventura, California when he was still an infant.
"I moved out here as a baby and one of my older brothers used to box," Juarez reflected. "I saw him fighting once and they gave him a trophy. I wanted to get a trophy too and that's how I got started. I started out here at eight years old."
Juarez revealed that as an amateur he partook in the National Silver Gloves and Golden Gloves before competing on the U.S. Olympic Team. He was also able to travel to such locations as Cuba, England, and France amongst others and spoke with great fondness of those times.
Juarez campaigns in the flyweight division and currently holds a 10-0 record with two knockouts. He came back from a nearly four-year layoff last year with a pair of victories in the summer over Ernie Marquez and Joseph Rios. He is a well-conditioned boxer who knows when to attack and mixes his punches up well to the body and head.
I asked Juarez how he connected with Donaire for this particular camp and he told me how he joined the 'Filipino Flash' during his last camp, a December blowout over tough Ukrainian Wladimir Sidorenko, and was subsequently brought back to help him ready for Montiel.
Asked what it is like sparring with one of the world's premier fighters, I could sense how grateful Jaurez was.
"It's a good experience," he continued. "I'm still learning. Never too old to learn. Working with Nonito I learned a lot of stuff. It's hard work. He's a hard worker. He's working hard for this fight. I love it becuase I am learning. I'm thankful that he brought me back."
Asked for his take on the Montiel fight, Juarez stated with conviction just how strong Donaire is and how it is going to be a great battle. He expects his gym mate to eventually take the fight over with his speed on his way to capturing the WBC and WBO bantamweight titles.
That prediction is definitely within reason given Donaire's abundance of talent but for me this particular day at the gym wasn't just about one fighter. 'Beto' Juarez was able to show me something inside of the ring that caught my eye and he is one to look out for in the future.