Joe Rein Writings


Juan Lazcano: "You Reap What You Sow"

Hidden away in a non-descript mini-mall in Hollywood, behind what looks like the dark tinted windows of a rapper's limo, is the La Brea Boxing Academy. It's right out of a James Bond movie. No name on the door...a thick padlock, but once inside, it's cavernous--(huge by L.A. standards) festooned with colorful flags of many nations hanging from heavy wooden beams suspended from the high ceiling.

On this day, I came to watch Juan Lazcano (31-2-1) spar four rounds with Omar Weis, in preparation for his Feb.13 ten-rounder with Radford Beasley (22-2) at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas, his home town, and then interview him.

By mutual agreement, after Weis and Lazcano did four, they did two more. Neither guy tried to make a war out of it and just practiced their moves and showed their professionalism in the clinches. Lazcano did two more with a much bigger fighter, then finished up the rest of his floor work to a thinned-out crowd in the gym.

While Lazcano skipped rope, he could see me looking around, wondering where everyone was going, and he smiled, saying something in Spanish, with only one word really familiar to me: "siesta." There were a great many Argentineans in the gym and that was their custom. The gym was shutting down for that period.

Lazcano is a perfect-sized lightweight, about 5'10", with long arms, and all of his weight equally distributed. Even at 28, he shows no signs of struggling with the lightweight limit.

After Lazcano's workout, we both sit outside the gym. He slouches, relaxing, and just as he picks his spots in the ring, his words are carefully chosen and tempered with the experience of a life far harder than his easy smile suggests.

Q:     Do you think you beat Leija?

JL: I think I beat him. It was a close fight...but if someone takes the time to look the fight over---without listening to the commentary....What was the big deal? Was I cut? Was I beat-up so bad? He didn't really hit me at all. He threw a lot of punches but I made him miss a lot...of course, he landed a few.

No excuses...but a month-and-a half before, I had fought Wilfredo Vasquez, and I had to get up for that fight--a THREE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION...They didn't even let me rest. They notify me about the Leija fight a week to get right back up to that level--back to back--was very hard for me. Nevertheless, it was a step I had to take in my career. We took a bold step. And sometimes business is about taking chances, so we took it. And, thank God, we came out on top.

It was a close fight...but I think we came out not only winners...but we learned a lot from that fight.

Q:     What did you learn?

JL: Next time, if I'm not up for a certain fight, or if I fight too close to a big fight, and they schedule another big fight really close, it's not a good idea.

You learn a lot of things as you go along. It's like baseball or basketball; they can't get up every time. We fought two 3-time world champions back to back.

Q:     From starting out in a small town in Texas, what is it like being a world-rated professional fighter?

JL: I've had the privilege to live in many different cities. When I turned pro, I came out to Los Angeles back in 93'. Then I went to Vegas, Sacramento...sparring partner for Pernell Whitaker, Zab Judah...many others that helped me. It's not a small-town mentality anymore. It's worldwide now.

Q:     Are fans more aware of you?

JL: I don't pay attention to that. I'm like on a mission that God has called me upon. I know it sounds weird. I don't know how he wants to use me, but I know he's using me to do something positive, whether it's for the community or boxing or both, I don't know. I'm an advocate for good. I do reach for excellence every day of my life.

Q:     Have you ever sparred or fought with anger? You're smiling?

JL: Early in my career, ignorant to a lot of things, I thought it was more emotional rather than rational. I would take it personal...That was many, many years ago. That's part of becoming mature... becoming a world-class fighter, having a championship mentality. That's all part of growing up.

Q:     Ever have problems on the street?

JL: Yes, I did have problems. Just like many other fighters. We start out in humble beginnings. We come from the barrio, the ghetto, whatever you want to call it. A lot of times you have to fight your way out of there. Because you get tested.

I was never a bully; I played the super hero. I would go and help my friends...even though guys were much bigger than me. I was just a skinny kid, but I just loved helping people out..I LOVED IT!!

I'd yell, "Hey, man, leave the guy alone. He doesn't want to fight you. Just back off!" And he'd say, " Mind your own business!" I'm like: "The guy doesn't want to fight...What do you want?" And he'd say: "You want some?" And I'd tell him, "Well let's dance. So, we would dance." That's part of growing up. And I hope we're better for that.

Q:     How long was your amateur career?

JL: I had a pretty extensive amateur career. I had my first fight when I was 8. I fought till I was 18--a little over 100 fights.

Q:     What do you look for in a young kid that tells you he's going to be a good fighter?

JL: First and foremost, you look at their work ethic. Somebody may have skill, but skill alone can only take you so far. Combine skill with a good work ethic, it can take you much farther. If I had a choice of a naturally skilled fighter and a fighter that had some skill and had a great work ethic and personality, I go with the fighter with the good work ethic.

Q:     When you spar, even though you have the lateral movement to avoid it, you let guys bang to your body. Why?

JL: You gotta let them punch you every now and then. You gotta let your sparring partners get their's in. You can go untouched throughout a sparring session. In the fight, you gotta get punched. If I'm covering, and I have complete control of the situation, if it's the right time to let them do that: it's OK. Like right now, it's OK to let my sparring partners throw 3-4, get a couple a shots in, because I'm getting in shape. I'm working different aspects of my game, so I'm not afraid to get hit. I'm not going to let them hit me ....all night, or let them hit me cleanly, where I get hurt...No. But, yes, I let them hit me, and I just roll with their punches. It may seem like they're getting good licks---and they might get one in there, but the majority of them are blocked. I'm doing it for a purpose.

Q:     Who's landed the best lick on you?

JL: The best lick I've been hit with is the straight right from life.

Life will lay you out, and if you're not careful, it will lay you out for good. I think that's the strongest punch.

Q:     Ever wonder why refs don't stop it when you're really hurting somebody?

JL: If the guy is getting hit too much, and he's not really protecting himself, I'll try to hit'm, not really to destroy'm, but to have the referee stop it. Because, I'm human, and I'm not in there to destroy individuals; I'm there to dissect to win,.. without, if possible, going toe-to-toe...It's a last resort.

Q:     Do you ever retaliate when you know somebody has deliberately fouled you?

JL: It comes out automatically. You reap what you sow!

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