Mariana “Barbie” Juarez vs Yulihan Luna Preview and Yesenia Gomez Too
By Felipe Leon
Despite the global pandemic, boxing is slowly but surely coming back to pre-Covid 19 action all over the world. In Mexico, one of the superpowers of the sport, the return has been a bit slower than north of the border.
Without a doubt there wasn’t any other choice of who would headline their comeback telecast but the current queen of Mexican female boxing Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (54-9-4, 18KO) who will look to defend her WBC bantamweight crown against former IBF super bantamweight world champion Yulihan “La Cobrita” Luna (19-3-1, 3KO) in a 10-round fight on Saturday Oct. 31, from the Oasis Arena in Cancun, Mexico. Televisa will televise.
The arena will hold a small socially distanced crowd of 1,200 fight fans, about 60% of the floor.
“Either we adapt or we just stay in the same place,” Juarez said of the pandemic and her return to the ring during it after nearly a year without action. “We have to be conscious that we can all protect each other; we know of the preventative measures there will be in place. We have to take care of each other, we have to cooperate so that we can go to a new normal, we can’t stay locked up forever.”
After averaging four fights a year for the last five and with 67 pro fights in a 22-year career, this fight marks Juarez’s first of the year. The last time Juarez, 40, went this long without a fight was in ’06 when she didn’t fight at all and only performed once the next year.
“I had a good training camp, sparring my sister, Lourdes Juarez, I am disciplined and constantly working,” Juarez of Mexico City said of her last camp. “I am happy to be back in the ring and after my goals. I want the title at super bantamweight and the fight against Jackie (Nava). That fight was done but it fell through but we hope next year we can make it happen.”
After holding the WBC flyweight and super flyweight belts, this latest reign at 118 pounds for “Barbie” has lasted three years and nine world title defenses. In her last fight, Juarez defended the crown with a unanimous decision over Argentina’s Carolina Raquel Duer last October.
“This will be my tenth defense, not an easy number to reach in the bantamweight division,” Juarez confessed. “I like to make use of my titles and that is why I never doubted in defending this title against a champion like Yulihan. These are the fights the fans want to see now that boxing is back on television.”
Across the ring from her will be a much younger Luna who with only a third of Juarez’s fights under her belt, still is experienced enough to make it a long night for the defending champion.
Luna of Gomez Palacio, Mexico, captured the vacant IBF 122-pound strap in late 2014 with a unanimous decision over Carolina Marcela “Chapita” Gutierrez of Argentina. She defended her title only once in the summer of 2015 with a split draw against Maureen Shea in Los Angeles. She was stripped of the title for failure to defend because of a two-year break due to the birth of her daughter Barbara.
She came back in 2017 with eight fights, winning all except a unanimous decision loss in November of 2018 to the current WBC super flyweight champion Guadalupe “Lupita” Martinez.
“It is a dream come true to face Mariana and for a world title,” the 26-year-old Luna stated recently. “The green and gold belt is the title I’ve wanted since I began boxing. Thank God we are getting the opportunity, I feel great since I am coming off a fight that ended quickly. I have worked on some errors and I feel strong.”
In her last fight last month behind closed doors in her hometown, Luna stopped the overmatched Kathia Rodriguez in the sixth round of a scheduled eight.
“It is going to be a great fight, I know she and I will give everything in the ring,” Luna said at the final press-conference. “This is my dream, when I started in this sport, I would see Mariana in magazines or on television and I would say I would like to fight her one day because she is the best. It is an honor for me to be here to challenge her. I am here motivated and ready because another one of my dreams is to be a WBC world champion and I have no doubt this Saturday night it will be a war inside the ring.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a WBC world champion,” Luna continued. “Now I am fighting in my natural weight, my father and trainer Julio Luna will be in my corner and I will have an extra motivation, my daughter will be with me. Nothing can go wrong on Saturday night.”
As always, Juarez exuded confidence at the final press conference flanked on either shoulder with only two of her many world titles and her face covered with an appropriate placed mask.
“I am happy to return to the ring,” Juarez exalted. “It will be a tough fight against ‘Cobrita’. I wanted an opponent at a world-class level, I chose her. After not having boxing for so long, I think we should come back with great fights. My preparation has always been the main ingredient for my success. We have worked very hard despite the pandemic. I have a gym at home and I have not stopped working, I have been active, a bit desperate because this fight has been in the works for the last four to five months. I have been waiting for this night for a long time and I am very happy it is almost upon us.”
“Our adrenaline is at an all-time high,” Juarez explained. “We are ready to give our best, to defend my title and believe me I will leave everything in that ring. I am happy and motivated to make my tenth defense, we can’t take the pandemic for granted, we have to be conscious of what is happening but we have to go on, there is no other way.”
“Niña” Gomez Defends Against Sanchez
Featured in the semi-main event will be another female world title when the current WBC light flyweight world champion Yesenia “Niña” Gomez (17-5-3, 6KO) puts her green and gold strap on the line against the virtual unknown Mirna Sanchez (5-0-1, 2KO) in a scheduled ten rounder.
The 24-year-old Gomez captured the world title a short two years ago. After fighting to a draw against the always tough Esmeralda “Joya” Moreno, Gomez beat her in the rematch via majority decision four months later.
Since then Gomez, who trains in the altitude of Mexico City under the watchful eye of Ruben Lira, has defended the title three times against Erika Hanawa of Japan, Ana Victoria Polo of Mexico City and Debora Rengifo of Venezuela.
All the defenses have been in her hometown of Cancun, Mexico.
“I always prepare myself for my fights the same way, with the same intensity,” Gomez stated of her more recent training camp. “I am very happy to defend my title for the fourth time and again in my hometown of Cancun. It is extra special since it is the return of boxing to Televisa.”
The 22-year-old Sanchez of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, came out of nowhere and was awarded a world title opportunity. A pro since 2018, all of her fights have been scheduled for four rounds except her last one, a six rounder she won via a fourth round TKO last November.
In the current WBC light flyweight rankings, Sanchez is not ranked.
“We know that Yesenia has good mobility and strength,” Sanchez said of the world champion. “We are going to fight in her backyard but we are going to go into the ring fully prepared. I am confident I am ready for the fight and to become a world champion.”
Gomez is conscious that undoubtedly she is the favorite not only on paper but should be inside the ring as well. Despite of that, she feels she can’t take Sanchez lightly.
“I have fought as the underdog too in some fights before becoming a world champion and I was able to prove some predictions wrong,” Gomez said. “All opponents are dangerous, I have been the underdog, I know what that means.”
“I am going to go out and enjoy myself,” she concluded. “I am very thankful I have been given the opportunity to fight after a year of inactivity.”
(Photo by Esto)