Monday, October 15, 2007

Score For Charismatic, Fun Boxers On The Verge Of Stardom Who Double As College Students


It wasn't the ultra-competitive fight I expected, but then it wasn't exactly unenjoyable, either. Juan Diaz' dominant performance Saturday night, which forced Julio Diaz' corner to throw in the towel in the ninth round, is mainly the reason it fell short in the competition department, and Juan also was the reason behind its enjoyability. This Juan Diaz -- he's really something, isn't he? I could watch him all day. His style might rightly be called "tornado-like," but he took it to near-literal levels when, as my friend Dave noted, he punched a complete circle around Julio at one point. Juan hit him a bunch, stepped to his left, then repeated until he'd come all the way around Julio. Juan's close proximity dulled Julio's power, because he just couldn't get the extension on his punches the way he needed. Juan's style -- reminiscent of this scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm -- is going to keep him from getting KO'd except for by all but the best power-punchers, guys who can knock a man out from an extremely short distance. We saw Kelly Pavlik do this to Edison Miranda, too. If a fighter can walk through the firestorm of a big puncher, it may be the best way, short of some fancy footwork, to defuse a bomb-thrower.

Julio may have fought the wrong fight by staying on the inside with Juan, but then, as Larry Merchant noted, he may not have had any choice. When Julio kept his distance a little, he did all right; that tactic put the fight in that rare category of "one-sided fight that's kind of competive." Only problem is, Juan would clobber Julio with eight punches in a row if Julio dared to hit him with three.'s Doug Fischer said Julio had the look of an overtrained or spent fighter. My eye's not good enough to tell. But Juan's punch volume, his head movement on the way in, his smart jab and his other attributes probably did as much to overwhelm Julio as anything else.

All in all, Juan Diaz impressed me more than Julio disappointed. Sure, Juan's a little chubby-looking. Sure, he doesn't hit all that hard. But what's it matter that he looks chubby if he can throw punches from morning to night? What's it matter if he doesn't hit that hard, if everyone he fights these days says, "I'm done, I quit. I don't want to fight this guy anymore tonight. It's too much of a pain in the ass?" Plus, I can't get enough of the college student storyline. Plus, he's likable as all get-out. After he won, he said, "I feel like King Kong!" How charming is that (even though it accidentally implies impending doom)? Young Diaz can be a breakout star under the right conditions. Make 'em happen, Don King.

Next for the winner: The three consensus options for Juan -- only 24 years old -- are fellow lightweight (135 lbs.) belt-holder David Diaz; lightweight Ring Magazine champ Joel Casamayor; and 130-pound sensation Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao would mean the most money, so naturally that's who Juan was calling out Saturday after his win. But if I'm Pacquiao, I stay far away from Juan. Pacquiao's boxing skills have improved dramatically, but I don't think he has the slickness needed to outbox Juan, nor do I think he will carry enough of his power with the extra five pounds of weight he'd need to knock him clean out. Plus, I want Pacquiao to fight Juan Manuel Marquez. Casamayor, one of the most underrated fighters of our time, just might have the slickness necessary to outbox Juan, and we could settle all this business about whether Casamayor, as the so-called "linear" champ, or Juan, as the champ holding the most belts, is the best. I like this fight most, but Casamayor sounds like a bitch to negotiate with, so David Diaz is a good backup fight, assuming he doesn't end up in the ring with Pacquiao. Not much on the map, but a fight that would virtually guarantee non-stop excitement, is Juan vs. fellow all-action fighter Michael Katsidis. I'd take that one, too. Happily.
Next for the loser: Julio's already come back from three demoralizing losses, so I don't see why he can't come back from this one. I think he's going to have to take the route of all beaten champs -- get back in line, beat some contenders, look good doing it and before long he's up for another belt. Julio's likable, too, so I wish him the best.

"The Baby Bull" may not be that intimidating a nickname for Juan Diaz, as the image of the child above makes clear. Nor does a reasonable description of Juan as "pudgy-looking college student" sound all that scary. But scatter, yon boxers. Juan will make your Saturday evening seriously unpleasant.


Lemmonex said...

Is that a bull hat that baby is wearing or a costume? Is it some type of minotaur? Explain to me, Tim.

Tim -- said...

It's a baby. Dressed as a bull. Since Juan Diaz goes by the nickname "Baby Bull," I thought it was appropriate. And hilarious.

Additional information of the kind that I think you seek is lacking from the site that originally hosted the photo is lacking. Here it is, though:

lemmonex said...

Oh, it's hilarious. Minotaur was a joke obvi, but I was kind of wondering if it was a costume or more like a hat type thing...I would like a bull type hat...

Tim -- said...

It looks like a hat. Sounds like it's going to be a strange Halloween for you...?

Jake said...

I also expected closer competition from the Diaz-Diaz bout, but maybe thats because I underestimated the fury of the Baby Bull. A lot of boxing nicknames leave me struggling to make the correlation, but man is his dead on. He just never stops coming. Even with the one-sidedness of the fight, it was unbelievably fun watching the younger Diaz suffocate his outmatched namesake with combination after combination.

Juan really does seem to have star written all over him, and I'm looking forward to watching the Baby Bull back in action. By the way, I agree with you 100% that a Pacquiao-Marquez and Diaz-Casamayor shakedown would be ideal.

dammrod said...

Juan Diaz is shaping up to be a great fighter, and that's no bull! You see what I did there? That's comedy magic.

There's so much to like about Juan Diaz. Exciting, intelligent, educated, enthusiastic, and humble. He's the complete package.

Now if you want to see a fighter who is the polar opposite of Juan Diaz then look no further then Daiki Kameda, the less talented brother of equally cocky Koki Kameda.

That's the link to the 12th round of last weekend's fight between Kameda and Naito. Apparently someone forgot to tell Daiki that he wasn't fighting under MMA rules.

Tim -- said...

Those combos are fun indeed, Jake. The best part about the matchups we agree on, I think, is that they'd be close fights. Or maybe not, the way Juan has looked every time I've seen him.

Comedy magic indeed, Dammrod. As for Daiki, I don't want to make excuses for him, but when you put guys in the ring who've only had 10 fights against guys who have 30 or so -- as they seem to do in Asia a lot -- it's a recipe for disaster, silliness, and tragedy, all wrapped up in one. But he shouldn't have lost his cool and the punishment makes sense.