Juarez: ‘Fighting in Las Vegas is where all fighters want to be’

 Super lightweight contender Omar “El Relámpago” Juarez previewed his upcoming showdown against Ryan “Cowboy” Karl before they square off in the co-main event of PBC action on FOX and FOX Deportes this Saturday, February 5 from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

The FOX broadcast begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and is headlined by welterweight contender Abel Ramos dueling against Luke Santamaria in a 10-round bout.

The FOX broadcast precedes a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View event beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and headlined by former unified welterweight world champion Keith “One Time’’ Thurman battling former super lightweight world champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios.

Here is what the 22-year-old Juarez (12-1, 5 KOs) had to say about training camp, facing Karl and more:

On his recent training camp:

“This training camp has been very grueling, just like others in the past. I started off in San Antonio, where I was getting back into the groove, working on a lot of fundamentals, footwork and defense. Then our team decided to head out to Las Vegas to finish off the remainder of camp. Las Vegas is the mecca of boxing and the sparring there is second to none. The best fighters train here. I’ve just finished my last day of sparring and now I’m ready for fight week. I’m feeling great and I’ll be ready to shine on fight night.”

On his matchup with Ryan Karl:

“This is a big fight for me. Ryan Karl is a big puncher who has fought at the highest level in boxing. I know he’s coming to make a statement against me, but I have other plans. This is a must win for me to get back on track to further my career, and I’m not going to let him ruin my plans. I have a great strategy in place with my trainer Rick Nunez and my dad. We see some holes in his game that we are going to capitalize on.”

On fighting in Las Vegas for the second time in his career:

“Fighting in Las Vegas is where all fighters want to be, and that is no different with me. Like I said, Vegas is the mecca of boxing, and I can’t wait to put on a great performance. I’ve gotten acclimated to the high elevation out here, so I’ll be at my best when I step in the ring.”

On fighting on FOX during a big weekend of sports.

“Fighting on February 5 on FOX is going to be incredible because it’s the weekend right before the Super Bowl. In addition, the NHL All-Star game and NFL Pro Bowl are happening in Las Vegas, so I know the electricity in the city will be lively. I’m grateful to be fighting on FOX once again, where all my fans back home in Brownsville, TX, will be able to tune in. These opportunities don’t come around for most fighters, so I’m very thankful to my team.”

Photo: Alex Sanchez/Team Juarez


Ryan Karl: ‘A win against Barrios puts me right there at the top with Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez’

Ryan “Cowboy” Karl is determined to take full advantage of the opportunity in front of him as he prepares to battle unbeaten WBA Super Lightweight Champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios in the SHOWTIME PPV co-main event this Saturday, October 31 from Alamodome in San Antonio in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

“I’m not content just fighting for a title, I’ll be happy when I win the title,” said Karl. “This is everything that I’ve been working my whole life for. This moment is a huge opportunity for me. A lot of fighters never get this chance.”

The Milano, Texas native enters this fight on a three-bout winning streak, with all of those victories coming by stoppage. This run has come after Karl’s two losses came in a span of four fights from 2017 to 2018, an experience that provided valuable lessons for the 28-year-old.

“I learned to listen better to my corner,” said Karl. “I also learned to not take fights when you’re injured and not fully healed, as well as to not overlook people. I thought that I was so good that I could beat a good fighter when I was less than 100%. So, I’ve learned to not take my health for granted and that you have to be healthy enough to spar and prepare the right way.”

Karl’s winning streak was kicked off by him avenging one of his losses, as he scored a fifth-round knockout over Kevin Watts after suffering that same result in their first matchup. Most recently, Karl triumphed over Bergman Aguilar last November.
“I’ve always believed that I’d be a world champion,” said Karl. “We’ve had setbacks with injuries and other obstacles, but I’ve never doubted myself or thought that I couldn’t do it. I’m lucky to have strong family support as well, which has helped me keep the faith.”

In Karl’s corner is his longtime coach, the renowned Ronnie Shields, who has guided Karl throughout his pro career and during this training camp in the midst of a pandemic. Karl has been sparring with unbeaten Kent Cruz in preparation and has also been buoyed by being able to still be with his family during camp.

“Training camp is going great and we’re very happy with our progress,” said Karl. “It’s definitely different with my coaches wearing masks in the gym and being as cautious as we can be. But the fact that I’m still able to see my wife and my sons is great. My oldest son Jace is six and he’s doing online learning from home at the moment. And then I have a one-year-old son named Jack as well. So it’s great to be around them and my wife who’s due to have our daughter in December.

Karl and San Antonio’s Barrios are very familiar with each other dating back to their days competing in the same amateur tournaments in Texas. Despite their proximity, it was only in recent years, as Barrios moved up in weight, that Karl began to see him as a possible future opponent.

“Early on I didn’t think we’d ever fight because he was so small, but then I saw that he was moving up and I started thinking that he was tall enough that we might see him down the road,” said Karl. “I didn’t know him very well in the amateurs because he was a lot younger than me. Around the time that I turned pro I was 22 and Mario was only 18 then. He was just a lot smaller and younger than me.

“Mario has done a great job as a pro. His managers have built him up and gotten the right fights for him, fighting a lot of smaller guys. He has good power and he’s a good boxer. He does a lot of things well. I think that I’ll be his biggest opponent to date, but he’s handled his previous opponents well so far.”

The “Cowboy” has become known for his come forward style, one that he believes will create a memorable fight for the fans and end with him amongst the sport’s 140-pound elite on October 31.

“I’m not the type of fighter to go in there and wait a bunch of rounds to come on,” said Karl.  “Everybody knows that I like to fight. I’m anticipating an exciting, competitive fight. This one definitely won’t be boring. I expect us to throw lots of punches and I’m in great shape, so that plays to my strengths.

“A win against Barrios puts me right there at the top with Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez. So hopefully this will get me a chance at them and revitalize my career for the biggest and best fights.”