Sharkies Machine: “The Rise of Humberto 'El Debate' Soto”

21.08.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr. Saturday night in Chicago, Featherweight Rocky Juarez faced a replacement fighter named Humberto “El Debate” Soto, who turned in a dazzling performance and won the WBC Interim Title that was up for grabs. The referee, Tim Adams was helpful to Juarez’ cause—but Soto proved too determined and too smart to let them take away his big moment. Soto won the first four rounds easily on my scorecard by dictating the tempo, working his jab and following up with combinations that were scoring with authority. Juarez is a quality boxer and packs a good punch but he could do nothing to deter the crafty and determined Soto. Even when Juarez scored with flush power shots, Soto absorbed it well and kept coming forward, delivering his own brand of effective offense.

Juarez came on extra strong in the middle of the fifth round after being dominated by Soto. Juarez rallied with pure heart and some solid punches to win his first round. Arguments could be made that Soto won that round too—but I was looking for a round to give Juarez, since he was working so hard. In the eighth, it was close. Soto was using his long jab and taking
something of a breather, while Juarez out hustled him just enough to win the round.

In the ninth, the referee took a point from Soto for hitting behind the head. It was not an intentional foul. It was the kind of foul a referee hits you with when he’s biased and seeking ways to protect the favorite, Rocky Juarez. (Remember how the ref did Zahir Raheem in his fight with Juarez?) After all, Soto was a replacement. He had but two weeks to prepare for this fight. He wasn’t supposed to win. Tim Adams was just doing his job of keeping to the “script,” during the officiating.

Apparently, Humberto Soto didn’t read the script. He was there to win, unlike Javier Castillejo, the “opponent” for Fernando “No Longer Ferocious” Vargas, who stood there and let Vargas win the fight with little resistance and a big paycheck as a reward for his compliance.

Soto responded to the point deduction by putting something extra on his punches and making Rocky Juarez pay for the favoritism he was getting from the referee, Mr. Adams.

As Soto continued to pepper Juarez with shots from all angles, the ref called a Timeout—to fix some hardly noticeable loose tape on Juarez’ gloves. That gave Juarez a chance to catch his breath in a moment where blood was dripping from a cut beneath his left eye, compliments of a Soto punch. Even with some help from Adams, I scored it a 9-9 round because Soto won that round too, even with the deduction.

In the tenth round, the ref called another timeout to mop up the advert in the center of the ring. A moment later, it was de ja vu, as the ref stopped the action again to take another point from Soto for hitting behind the head. There was nothing intentional about the infraction; it was just a reason for the ref to slant things in favor of Juarez and force
Humberto Soto into a precarious position. One more point deducted and Soto would lose by Disqualification.

Again, Soto was the more effective puncher and his ring generalship was impressive. Though he took some decent shots from Juarez, he showed a hell of a chin and the ability to use his height to his advantage as he frustrated Juarez, who couldn’t catch him with anything big enough to change the reality of the contest.

In the eleventh, Soto demonstrated great ring smarts by boxing exclusively from the outside, popping his jab and following up with well timed right hands from a safe distance with an emphasis on not doing anything that could be called a foul. Adams’ eye was all over Soto. Juarez showed big heart himself in the eleventh, rallying with a barrage of shots and a
desperation to win. Juarez out hustled Soto and won the eleventh.

In the final round, Soto stayed outside but was a bit more aggressive; landing a solid left hook and an assortment of punches that clearly won him the 12th round. In the closing moments, Soto wailed on Juarez, but he couldn’t knock him down. Juarez lost this fight but showed a lot of heart. For whatever reason, Soto was the better man Saturday night.

It was a nail-biter—waiting for the official scores to be read. I expected Soto to get robbed, considering the 2 points deducted. The announce team of HBO were warming it up, saying that the fight was close and the deductions could see it go to Juarez. Even minus the points deducted, I had it 114-112 for Soto.

I was amazed when the three Judges all scored it in favor of Humberto Soto by scores of 114-112 and 114-113 twice.

Justice was served.

Maybe Rocky Juarez just had a bad day, or maybe he just didn’t match up well with the longer and stronger Soto? However you slice it, this will be a learning curve for Juarez. Time will tell how he recovers from this first loss as a pro boxer. He did his best and never showed any sign of quit. It was an honorable loss. I hope it makes him better.

While Soto was relatively unheralded coming in as a replacement opponent, he demonstrated that he has what it takes to be somebody in the division. As a long time sparring partner for Erik Morales, he has some quality boxing skills and has the right demeanor to be a Champion in his own right. I look forward to seeing him fight again. Maybe he will have a rematch with Juarez, or face recently stripped Juan Manuel Marquez in the near future. All I can say is, look out—there’s a new kid on the block and he’s dangerous.

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Article posted on 22.08.2005

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