By John J. Raspanti
They’re a combined 71 years old. That’s old in the young man’s game of boxing.
Nobody knocks out father time. Hard fights wear the body down. The reflexes dull.
On August 4 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, CA., Mauricio Herrera, 37, and Jesus Soto Karass, 34, will meet up to determine who remains relevant in the most brutal sport alive.
Herrera, (23-7, 7 KOs) a former WBA junior lightweight champion, was last seen in the ring in March winning a dominant decision against Hector Velasquez. Before his fight with Velasquez, Herrera was wondering if he still had it having dropped his previous two matches.
“When camp began for that fight, I was doubting myself for the first time,” Herrera told this writer on the phone before his March bout. “I was asking myself whether I could still do it.”
Herrera has “done it” very well over the course of a 10-year career. Nicknamed “El Maestro” for his educated jab, he could just as easily be called “The Heartbreak Kid.”
Victorious in his first 13 fights, Herrera suffered a loss, but rebounded three bouts later to hand future welter champion Ruslan Provodonikov his first career defeat. In 2014, Herrera traveled to Puerto Rico to square off against heavily favored (10-1) world champion Danny Garcia.
Herrera frustrated the champion all night long. He fought intelligently, jabbed to the body consistently, and landed more punches. Garcia connected with the heavier shots, but Herrera controlled most of the fight, or so it seemed.
Two judges had Garcia winning the bout by four points, while the third scored the fight a draw.
Nine months later, Herrera was again on the short side of a controversial decision. His opponent that night, undefeated Jose Benavidez was being groomed by Top Rank for stardom. Herrera appeared to outwork his taller opponent. To many, Herrera did more than enough to win the fight.
As the decision was announced, Herrera sensed it wouldn’t go his way. His intuition proved right. Unanimously, the judges had Benavidez the clear-cut winner.
“Those bad decisions are hard to take,” Herrera said. “I was tired of being cheated out of my fights.”
Again, he bounced back, capturing the interim world title four months later, and the NABF in 2015, by defeating Hank Lundy.
Soto Karass (28-11-4, 18 KOs) is in the midst of three-fight losing streak, against current WBA and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman, former two-division titleholder Devon Alexander, and Yoshihiro Kamegai, who meets Miguel Cotto on August 26 in Carson,CA. His two fights with Kamegia were bloodbaths, the first a draw and the second a TKO loss.
Unlike Herrera, whose career started late, Soto Karass debuted at 18. His boxing life has been a rollercoaster ride. He won his first 11 fights and dropped his next three. He rebounded to win 13 in succession until losing by technical decision to Alfonzo Gomez in 2009. Most of his bouts were tough, two-fisted affairs, with neither boxer giving an inch.
Soto Karass reached his pinnacle four years ago when he upset former two-time welterweight champion Andre Berto in a thrilling give-and-take battle. He’s primed and ready to go to war with Herrera.
"Mark my words, on August fourth, the fans will witness a comeback as they’ve never seen before in the ring,” Soto Karass said during media day last week.” This could be one of my last chances to go all-out in the ring, and I want to be sure it happens in this fight.
"Without a doubt, this fight will be a war,” he added.”
Herrera agrees with Soto Karass.
“Me versus Soto Karass will be a nice style fight,” Herrera said. “This will be an exciting match for the people and for us. His style is to come forward and he comes to fight. The winner here can go on to bigger, better things. This fight is very important. You are guaranteed a good show. You will see me with my old tricks.”
This is a must win for both fighters.
Retirement is beckoning.
Expect them to leave it all in the ring.
As they say, age is only a number.