Getting Sick Of This “I Didn’t Prepare For A Left-Hander/Right-Hander” Junk (Looking At You, Rocky Juarez And Nicolay Valuev) [Updated]

Twice in the last month, a boxer has pulled out of a fight with a health issue, and a substitute has been offered so the show can go on. Twice, the healthy fighter has rejected the substitute, claiming he wasn’t prepared for the substitute’s stance.
His stance.
Heavyweight Nicolay Valuev had been preparing for a southpaw on May 30, Ruslan Chagaev, but Chagaev was rejected by Finnish regulators when his blood came up with traces of hepatitis B and both of the perfectly acceptable substitutes, Lamon Brewster and Kali Meehan, were orthodox fighters. He turned them down for that reason. This week, featherweight Chris John dropped out of his rematch scheduled for Saturday with Rocky Juarez, citing a blood issue of his own, but Juarez turned down an HBO-approved opponent, Mario Santiago, because he was a left-hander and he’d been preparing for a right-hander.
There are lots of reasons to reject a substitute opponent. Like, maybe you don’t feel like going forward with some fight that could jeopardize the original fight in hopes it will be rescheduled. That makes perfect sense. But that’s not what happened with John-Juarez II. Juarez’ team expressed an interest in staying on the HBO undercard. Then, it got fussy about the opponent. Anyone paying attention would know that HBO’s raised its standards about the kind of fights they’ll televise, which has largely been a good trend, and Juarez-Santiago would have been a good fight. (Friend of the site WF actually suggested it before the news broke.) But no. Because Santiago is a southpaw, he gets rejected by Juarez, and HBO tells Juarez to shove off. Valuev’s people explored the option of keeping the show going, but rejected it when it came right down to it, so maybe they never had any intention of going through with the show. As if Juarez had never fought a southpaw, or Valuev had never fought an orthodox boxer.
Contrast this with what heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko did last weekend. Confronted with a righty opponent who dropped out with an injury, David Haye, Klitschko didn’t blink at the prospect of fighting a lefty — the suddenly available Chagaev. Was that so hard? No. And why does stance make such a huge difference as opposed to, say, dealing with a switch of opponents from a tall one to a short one, a slugger to a technical boxer? Get over it. Or just say you don’t want to fight any substitute at all, for any reason. It’s a simple choice.
[UPDATED: Rocky has explained his reasoning in detail here. Still not liking it. You can’t say you weren’t being choosy if you turned down someone just because he was a southpaw.]

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.