Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Too Much Diaz In The Weight Class Right Now"

Suppose you have one Diaz -- let's name this one Juan -- who is the very definition of a pressure fighter. He keeps coming and coming, frustrating his opponents because he just... won't... get off of them already. Only problem is, he's shown before that he has trouble with guys who can move their feet, display a little slickness. And suppose you have another Diaz -- let's name this one Julio -- who has real knockout power, but he's also got, for lack of a better description, a little slickness; he can move his feet and control the pace of things until he catches his opponent with that KO punch. The only problem with this Diaz is, he's shown before that he has difficulty against guys who come at him throwing a lot of punches and swarming him, so-called pressure fighters. And suppose both of these Diazes are in their primes, and that they have a tendency to ditch the pretty stuff when they're in the thick of battle and see whether they can bomb out their opponents. What, do you suppose, would happen?

If you didn't get the telegraph there, you might be surprised to learn that you'll have a chance to find out Saturday, when the very non-hypothetical Juan and Julio Diaz face off on HBO for a chance to unify three different lightweight (135 lbs.) belts. While I couldn't blame anyone for pursuing their morbid curiosity about Evander Holyfield's latest attempt to re-win the heavyweight title airing the same night on pay per view, the Diaz vs. Diaz fight is free, and it's one of the top 10 fights I'm looking forward to in the jam-packed final quarter of 2007.

Juan, at age 24, is a college student and potential boxing superstar who sparked a bidding war last year between top promoters eager to sign "The Baby Bull" and keep him aboard until he follows his dream of running for office. One of the fights that no doubt made him a hot prospect was his spring 2006 sizzler against Jose Miguel Cotto, which I bet nearly exploded the CompuBox punch stat counters for all the fists a-flying. He rewarded Don King, the promoter who signed him later in 2006, with a victory this spring over Acelino Freitas, in what would be his biggest test. Freitas flummoxed Juan for a few rounds with some slick boxing before Freitas could no longer hold off the charges of the squat, aptly-nicknamed Baby Bull. And he really hurt Freitas a few times, too, suggesting that maybe Juan had finally begun to acquire some serious power to go along with his all-out energy.

While Juan's career arc has been a steep upward curve, Julio's has been a series of jagged lines. His 2005 TKO loss to a pressure-applying Jose Luis Castillo mere months before Castillo participated in the greatest fight I've ever seen against Diego Corrales was nothing to be ashamed of, but Julio, now 27, took it hard. Maybe it's because he'd steadily built his career back after a period where he lost two of three, one a disputed decision to Angel Manfredy in 2002 and the other a devastating first round knockout to Juan Valenzuela in 2001. Even his title-winning bout this year was strange, when Jesus Chavez had to quit because of an injury. In that fight, Julio relied on his pure boxing skills to build a steady lead, and while I've seen far less of Juan than I have of Julio, it's clear that the latter Diaz is fast. It's also clear that he's a warrior and that he hits very, very hard, with a complete variety of punches at his disposal.

Juan is the big betting favorite, as of now. But hardcore fans know this is no easy call, with the only certainty being that watching it unfold is a bright idea.

MY PREDICTION: Juan by close decision. He's undefeated and getting better with every fight, and he's been more active than Julio, who's had some long layoffs in his career. Rust, plus pressure from Castillo, did in Julio in 2005. I think it does Julio in again when the pressure comes from Juan, except Juan doesn't hit as hard as Castillo so Julio will lat until the bell rings.
CONFIDENCE: 55%. My lack of extensive exposure to either man leaves me hedging. More than one observer has said it would be foolish to underestimate Julio's power, and some think Juan could expose himself to a big blow when he goes nuts in one of his frenzies.
MY ALLEGIANCE: Julio delivered one of my favorite post-fight quotes this year, reflecting on the fact that he, Juan and David Diaz all had lightweight belts and he wanted to fight Juan next: "I'm hoping Juan Diaz finishes his homework and comes out to play. I just think there is too much Diaz in the weight class right now and we need to start getting rid of some of them." But I can't resist a college student-slash-boxer. Win one for higher education, Juan.

So much Ash, so much Diaz.


BOB said...

I agree Juan will win in a very close match. If Juan can escape the first 3 rounds he should be able to go the distance.

Tim -- said...

Early could be rough for him, it's true. He grinds people down, so going late usually works to his advantage.