By Jake Donovan
Saul 'Baby' Juarez lands his first career title fight following a 10-round win over former strawweight titlist Oswaldo Novoa in their third fight Sautrday evening in Metepec, Mexico.
Scores for their Televisa-televised World Boxing Council (WBC) title eliminator were 99-90, 98-91 and 97-92 in favor of Juarez, who will now move on to face unbeaten strawweight champ Wanheng Menayothin.
The hope was for the 25-year old contender to achieve such status in their rematch last December. A cut produced from a headbutt put an end to that hope, just 0:42 into the night.
The familiar rivals couldn't avoid clashing heads in their third meet, but this time around coming later in the night and at a point when the damage was already done on the scorecards.
Whether or not Novoa has improved since their Nov. '11 bout - which came on the undercard of Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez' stoppage win over Kermit Cintron - is open for debate. The 34-year old from Guadalajara has considerably upgraded his resume, however, in claiming a strawweight title win over Chao Zhong Xiong in Feb. '14.
Just one successful defense followed before conceding his crown in a knockout loss to Menayothin in Nov. '14 on the road in Thailand. The setback kicked off a stretch of four consecutive winless performances heading into Saturday's showdown with Juarez.
How that became grounds to land a final elimination bout is a quesion best directed towards the WBC, but Juarez isn't arguing with the decision that led to sanctioning the fight. The 25-year old from Mexico City entered their December rematch on the heels of a pair of upset wins over former 108 lb. champ Adrian Hernandez, both of which took place at flyweight.
Each of his last two fights with Novoa have come at strawweight. While nothing of substance was able to take place in just 0:42 of ring time last December, Juarez was able to prove his worth on Saturday evening.
The fight was competitive in spots, but where Juarez did enough in every round to build a massive lead on the scorecards. Because the fight took place in Mexico, WBC's open scoring policy was in effect, revealing Juarez up 40-36 on all three scorecards through four rounds.
Novoa picked up the pace in round five, realizing he was way down and in need of a dramatic turnaround. It didn't at all slow down Juarez, was steady and effective in his attack and reaching the point of no return as he was well up on all three cards (80-73, 79-73 and 78-74) after eight rounds.
The lone setback for Juarez came in round nine, when he was deducted one point for a clash of heads which left a cut over Novoa's left eye. He made up for it in the 10th and final round, nearly knocking out the fading former champ but instead settling for a landslide victory.
Juarez is unbeaten in four starts following a hard fought loss to Milan Melindo on the road in Manila, Philippines. His latest victory moves his record to 23-4-1 (12KOs), as he now awaits the biggest fight of his six year career.
Novoa is now 0-2-1 versus his countryman and winless in his last five starts, as his record falls to 14-7-1 (9KOs).
Negotiations between Menayothin and Juarez will begin immediately after the WBC orders the forthcoming title fight.
A mandatory defense of the WBC strawweight title has not been made since Menayothin - as the unbeaten #1 contender - was granted a shot versus Novoa some 16 months ago. The unbeaten Thai has since made four voluntary title defenses along with a non-title win mixed in over that stretch.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: JakeNDaBox