Jesus Soto-Karass is one of those hardnosed but unspectacular fringe contenders that only the ardent followers of the sport are aware of.
Even the diehard fans who know of Soto-Karass, who rematches with welterweight prospect Mike Jones on the Fernando Montiel-Nonito Donaire undercard on Feb. 19, are unfamiliar with his life beyond a handful of fights they’ve seen on TV.
For example, few know that the Los Mochis, Mexico native’s father was a prize fighter — a damn good one at that.
Jose Luis Soto fought legendary hall of famers Salvador Sanchez, Wilfredo Gomez, and Lupe Pintor. The 5-foot-10 bantamweight was good enough to split two 10-round bouts with Pintor.
Early in Soto’s career, he defeated seasoned former bantamweight champs Chucho Castillo and Rafael Herrera, neither of whom was far removed from their classic ring battles with Ruben Olivares and each other.
“Manuel Montiel Sr., the father and trainer of Fernando Montiel, says that Jose Luis Soto is one of the best fighters he’s ever seen,” said Ricardo Jimenez, a publicist for Top Rank, which promotes Soto-Karass. “Montiel Sr. was also a fighter, who turned pro around the same time that Jose Luis did. He says that people came from all over to watch Soto fight. He had a following and was making good money when other boxers his age were fighting four rounders.
“Montiel says Soto was real talented; tall and rangy with a good jab and lot of natural ability, but he didn’t train hard. He drank and partied between fights too much, so his prime didn‘t last very long.”
Soto-Karass didn’t see his father much growing up, but he’s heard all of the stories.
“I never saw him fight but people tell me about him all the time in Mexico,” Soto-Karass said through assistant trainer and interpreter Ricky Funez after a recent workout at trainer Joe Goossen’s gym in Van Nuys, Calif. “I hear about his two fights with Lupe Pintor a lot.
“My father’s first bout with Pintor happened not long after his fight with Salvador Sanchez. It was a war, I’ve been told, that was won by my father, which was a big upset because Pintor was a top contender. Their second fight took place after Pintor won the title from Carlos Zarate, but the title was not on the line. Everyone says my father beat Pintor the same way he did in the first bout, in a war, but he didn’t get the decision.”
Soto-Karass (24-5-3, 16 knockouts) knows what it’s like to lose an unpopular decision. The first bout with Jones, an entertaining 10-round bout that took place on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard last November, ended in a majority decision that most observers thought Karass deserved.
The controversy was strong enough to prompt Top Rank to put the rematch under Montiel-Donaire as the HBO-televised co-feature to the anticipated bantamweight showdown.
Soto-Karass has notched a few impressive victories during his nine-year career, including Telefutura-televised knockouts of then-undefeated Michel Rosales and fringe contender David Estrada, but he’s never been in a fight as high profile as the rematch with Jones.
The 28-year-old pressure fighter wants to make the most of his opportunity on the big stage, something his father was never able to do.
“My father never beat a good fighter after the Pintor fights,” Soto-Karass said. “He was involved in some bad things, he did a couple years in prison for transporting heroin. He was never the same after that but he continued to fight as an opponent for up-and-comers.
“If you look at his record on BoxRec.com, you’ll see that he lost many fights at the end of his career, but there are more losses, I’m told. He fought all over the world, in the Philippines, Thailand. It was all just to make a quick buck.”
Soto-Karass shakes his head at the thought. He almost became an opponent himself after dropping three consecutive decisions to undefeated fighters, including future junior middleweight beltholder Yuri Foreman, in 2004 and early 2005.
However, Soto-Karass was unbeaten in his next 15 bouts before losing a technical decision to Alfonso Gomez in 2009 and the first Jones bout last year. He wants to get back to his winning ways for obvious reasons.
“I’m almost thankful for the loss to Jones because it set up this rematch, which is one of my biggest paydays,” he said. “If I beat Jones there will hopefully be more big paydays for me.”
Soto-Karass says he will be careful with the money he makes in the final years of his boxing career. He doesn’t want to suffer his father’s fate.
“I have a lot of pride in my father’s boxing career because of some of the great fighters he fought, but I don’t want to end up the way he did, fighting just for money with no love for the sport,” Soto-Karass said. “I don’t want to follow in those footsteps.”