Jesus Soto Karass to roll the dice one more time
Tonight at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, boxing fans are about to witness a great fight. For this, they don’t even have to be fortune tellers. It is fairly enough if they look at the fight program. Jesus Soto Karass’ name is there and that is a guarantee of high-stakes war inside the squared circle.
The Mexican slugger is scheduled to face former world title challenger Mauricio Herrera, 23-7 (7), in a ten-round welterweight match-up, televised live by ESPN. Herrera is also known for his tough appearances in action-packed bouts. Styles make fights and this looks to be one helluva scrap.
One does not have to go further than last year to understand why Soto Karass, 28-11-4 (18), is a warrior. The 34-year-old veteran broke a 22-month hiatus to fight fellow slugger Yoshihiro Kamegai in April 2016 on a regular local show at Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, California. The ten-round bout turned to be a classic with thousands of punches shared between the offensive-minded pugilists. Despite being a small event, the brutal encounter was shortlisted for the “Fight of The Year” Award by THE RING Magazine.
Thanks to the heavy buzz around the scrap by diehard fans on forums and on social media, an immediate rematch was inevitable. HBO signed for that one and they placed Soto Karass-Kamegai II as the chief-support bout of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s 115-pound debut against fellow undefeated Carlos Cuadras.
The rematch, however, was a different story. Kamegai planted the seed of the eventual outcome early on in the bout, in the form of vicious hooks to the body. Soto Karass tried his best to keep himself in the fight but the mobility, as well as the mental and physical freshness of his Japanese foe, proved to be too much for him to overcome. Kamegai won after the eighth frame after the Mexican’s corner saved its wounded warrior from further punishment.
“Yes, the first fight against Kamegai was definitely better than the second one,” said Soto Karass with a smile on his face, during a recent video interview for UCNLive.com, through friend and translator Brian Garibay, “because, in the second, he hit me in the liver and I could not recuperate from that. But I have a heart of a warrior, so I fought through eight rounds.”
During the 10 months between his latest bout and the announcement of his August 4 return, the Mexican fighter had much to think about. Memories of the many tough battles he has weathered throughout his career seemed to weigh on his shoulders and the question remained if he had anything left after his rematch with Kamegai. He had long conversations with his family and friends about his future. He also counted on his fans’ wishes. Finally, he decided to roll the dice one more time.
“After my loss to Kamegai, retirement was in my thoughts. But people kept saying, ‘Come on; come on! Keep fighting!’ so I said I’d give it another try. I want to fight for my family and for my fans.”
Soto Karass said he gives himself another year in the sport but refused to look beyond his tonight’s bout.
“Now I only have Mauricio Herrera on my mind, after that fight – win, lose or draw – the first thing I will do is sit down with my wife and kids and talk about it. I will talk with my family, my team, my manager to see what is there to take after that one.”
The bout against Herrera takes place at welterweight. That means Soto Karass had to come down to a maximum of 147 pounds. The last time he had to do that was in December of 2013 when “El Renuente” faced Keith Thurman for the latter’s interim WBA title. Making weight seemed to be the first challenge en route to his return to the ring.
“Before I started training camp, I was 185 pounds. But today, after eight weeks of training and six days before the weigh-in, I am 150.5 pounds. I am already close to the weight. (Soto Karass made weight with one pound to spare, while Herrera came in at 145.8.) And I would like to thank to everyone, all the people behind me, my sponsors who helped me in having a good training camp,” said Soto Karass.
Although Herrera and Soto Karass never squared off in an official fight, the California-based fighters once shared a ring behind closed doors in a smokey gym years ago.
“I sparred with Mauricio about nine years ago. The first three-to-four rounds were difficult for me because he moves really well in the ring. After the fourth, I started to find him; I started connecting. We sparred a total of six rounds,” remembers Soto Karass, who is not high on using the experiences he collected during that day in the gym. ”It was nine years ago and, in my mind, we are not the same fighters anymore. On Friday, everything is going to be different than it was in that sparring session.”
Not being fooled by the past is a smart thing, even for fight fans. Both fighters have seen better years during their careers.
On his way up on the ranks, Herrera secured quality wins over Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Dallas Jr. He also suffered back-to-back losses in 10-round affairs against then-unbeaten contenders Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield in 2012. For the Riverside-based Herrera, the big opportunity came in the form of a world title bout against unified super lightweight champion Danny Garcia in March 2014. Although many of the experts at press row scored the bout for Herrera, Garcia walked away with a majority decision victory. Herrera has gone 3-3 in his last six, mostly against good opposition.
Jesus built himself up as a potential world title challenger before losing to fellow contenders Alfonso Gomez, Mike Jones and Gabriel Rosado between 2009 and 2012. After a disastrous 1-4 run alongside a no-contest, Top Rank released the Mexican pugilist. Soon afterward, Oscar De La Hoya signed him to Golden Boy Promotions and the best for Soto Karass was yet to come.
He started 2013 with a decision win over Selcuk Aydin, while, in July, he stopped former world champion Andre Berto 12th and final heat of an instant classic. He was also the first fighter to stop the double-tough Berto, Soto Karass came really close to getting a world title shot but none of the beltholders were eager to lace up the gloves with him. Perhaps it had something to do with the high-risk/low-reward ratio of a potential match-up with the Mexican. Jesus had a 28-8-3 record at the time. He also had a ferocious offense with a hyperactive 100-punches-plus-per-round output mixed with a massive chin and an enormous fighting heart.
“I do not like to believe that fighters avoided me. It is just that Golden Boy told me that I can fight Thurman and I am always willing to fight against anybody.”
So he fought Thurman. And though Soto Karass was somewhat outclassed by his more gifted foe, en route to a ninth round TKO loss, he gave his all just like he did many other times before and after that December evening.
As the day is closer than ever for Soto to hang up the gloves, the question remains if he feels satisfied with his legacy in boxing, or if he has any regrets, regarding his rich but hard-luck career.
“No. No. No. I have no regrets. I think everything happens for a reason and I am satisfied with what I have accomplished during my career. When I hang up my gloves, I will be happy with my achievements. I may never have become a world champion but now I trade being a champion with being recognized and loved by the people.”
The most natural way to get love from fans in boxing is to be a fearless warrior, who always gives his all. Come tonight, one can be sure this is exactly what we will see from Jesus Soto Karass. Because if he is nothing else, he is a fearless warrior who always gives his all.