If the prize ring is anything, it's lonely.
And on one March night last year in Argentina, Ana Julaton found that to be painfully true.
"It was me against the world," she said, reflecting on her last pro defeat at the gloved fists of 122-pound Argentine Yesica Marcos, in front of a crowd 40,000-large — all of them rooting against her.
"I feel like it gave me a lot of credibility," the 33-year-old Julaton said of the lopsided points loss that cost her her championship. "I'm not the type of fighter that says 'I'm not going to fight you.'"
And apparently, neither is Celina Salazar.
Julaton, also known as "The Hurricane," will break her yearlong fast from the ring Saturday in Cancun, Mexico when she encounters San Antonio's Salazar (4-1-2, 1 KO) in a scheduled featherweight 10-rounder — a fighter the Daly City-native admittedly knows little about.
"With this girl coming up, all I know is that she signed the contract," Julaton (12-3-1, 2 KOs) said. "I'm treating it as someone who wants to hurt me. And my job is to stop them."
Despite a modest pro record, the 24-year-old tough Tex-Mex is an accomplished amateur, capturing a Silver Gloves national championship in 2005 and the San Antonio Golden Gloves regional title a year later.
And in her previous bout against contender Melinda Cooper, a fight she was vastly outmatched in terms of pro experience, Salazar behind a high guard and unyielding pressure demonstrated her fondness for infighting — bludgeoning Cooper to the body while slashing her with overhand rights over six competitive rounds.
Still, Salazar lost that night, but Julaton isn't dismissive of her novice, yet dangerous, foe.
"With all of my opponents ... they're going to show me their best," Julaton said. "They're going to be pumped because they're going to be fighting me. They know this could be a stepping-stone for them to move on to the next level."
But reaching the next level is what Julaton looks to do post-Saturday night.
The two-time titleist, whose yearlong ring absence was due to her promoter Allan Tremblay's personal battle with cancer, hopes a win Saturday will propel her to a major TV date with the elite fighters at 122-pounds, most notably Mexico's Jackie Nava.
"I will fight anyone," Julaton said. "But in this sport, it needs to count. It needs to be a blockbuster fight."
Such a fight may loom as soon as Sept. 14 on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas.
"It's just a rumor at the end of the day," Julaton said. "I just have to take care of business Aug. 17."