Tough, skilled and dangerous, Uganda’s Justin Juuko fought a number of the great and the good; from Floyd Mayweather and Diego Corrales, to Michael Gomez and Zahir Raheem. The former top-ranked super-featherweight always gave his all and today he has some fine career to look back on.
As with many fighters who faced the sublime Floyd Mayweather Jnr, Juuko gets asked about this fight the most these days. It was back in 1999 when Juuko, then 33-2-1, challenged a 20-0 “Pretty Boy” for the WBC 130 pound crown. And Juuko did it on extremely short-notice.
A while back, the easygoing and witty Juuko, now aged 46 and having been retired since 2013, kindly recalled the Mayweather fight for this writer:
Q: You had a fine career of course, but you are probably best known for the night when you gave the great Floyd Mayweather a pretty hard fight in May of 1999. What are your memories of that big fight, when you met a prime Mayweather?
Justin Juuko: “I had actually trained for another guy, but they called and offered me the fight with Floyd. HBO had refused two or three guys [as challengers for Mayweather] and so they called me. I said, if I could fight at five-pounds over [the super-featherweight limit], okay. But they said it had to be a world title fight. I was 140-pounds the day before the fight (laughs). I ran six miles that night and again the next morning. Everything was [focused] on making weight for that fight. I did what I could, and he knows I gave him a good fight. Years later, when I was working with Manny Pacquiao and he was getting ready to fight Floyd, he told me that if I’d prepared properly, maybe I’d have beaten Floyd. I used to spar Pacquiao, I sparred with him as he was getting ready to fight Erik Morales, we did maybe 180-rounds together.”
Q: How great is Mayweather in your opinion? He of course says he’s T.B.E, the best ever.
J.J: “I think each generation has its different great fighters. I think I’d put Floyd in the top 10 of all time, because he has dominated for a long time – for 15 years or so. And he’s made it a big thing staying unbeaten, and everyone he fought was trying their best to win. Floyd is smart. He knows when he has to do what he needs to do. He’s a very disciplined fighter so he gets props for that. He trains like he’s a poor man. Most guys, when they reach that level, you’d think they would take things easy, but he still trains very hard, even now. So I can have him top-10 but not the best ever. There are other great undefeated fighters, look at [Julio Cesar] Chavez, who got to something like 80-0 [before he lost]. And Joe Calzaghe, who got to 46-0. Floyd has made a big thing out of being unbeaten but most people don’t care about that as much as they want to see good fights. There are fighters from different generations that people haven’t heard of and Floyd doesn’t talk about.”
Q: You and Floyd have some common opponents, in Diego Corrales for one. What are your memories of your exciting fight with the late, great “Chico” Corrales?
J.J: “Diego was a big guy, a tall guy. I had a very good fight with him. When they stopped it [Corrales winning via 10th-round KO], it was a draw on one of the cards. He was very tough. He wasn’t that good technically but he was tough. I met up with Floyd when he knew he was going to be fighting Corrales and he asked me about him, about his power and everything. I told Floyd that he’s [Corrales] not that technically good and that he cannot box with you. I told him he is big and tough but he doesn’t have one-punch power. I told Floyd how he just keeps punching and that it’s an accumulation and that he uses his strength and weight. I told Floyd to jab to the body, to break him down and that he could beat him up. And that’s just what Floyd did. Floyd got that from me (laughs).”