By Lem Satterfield
Miguel Diaz has been around boxing for many years, both as a trainer and a cutman.
Diaz has trained junior welterweight Marcos Rene Maidana and former titlists Luis Ramon "Yori Boy" Campas, Stevie Johnston, Cesar Soto, Johnny Tapia, and, briefly, Diego Corrales, among others.
Diaz also has served as a cut man for fighters such as Pacquiao, Mayweather., Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Kelly Pavlik, Israel Vazquez, Hasim Rahman, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Jose Luis Castillo, Iran Barkley, Eric Morel, Williams Joppy, Joshua Clottey, Tony Tubbs, and, Christy Martin.
Diaz had been the cutman for 28-year-old Cuban native Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 knockouts) until Saturday night, when he was called upon to replace trainer Ronnie Shields as the chief second for Lara's controversial, junior middleweight majority decision loss to three-time titlist Paul Williams (40-2, 27 KOs) in a clash of southpaws at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Diaz's move was necessitated by the fact that Shields had been tabbed to work the corner of ex-two-time champion Kermit Cintron (32-4-1, 28 KOs), who lost Saturday night's unanimous decision to Carlos Molina (19-4-2, six KOs) at Home Depot Center in California.
With the help and attention of Diaz in his corner, Lara was able to overcome the emergence of a golf-ball sized knot over his left temple to repeatedly land left hands to the right side of Williams' face, causing his rival to bleed from his nose and mouth as well as from cuts around both of his eyes.
In June of 2002 at Boardwalk Hall, Diaz had endured a similar situation during a battle of heavyweight ex-world champions between Evander Holyfield and Hasim Rahman.
In that bout, a head butt from Holyfield caused a soft ball-sized hematoma over the left eye of Hasim Rahman, resulting in an eighth-round split decision victory for Holyfield.
Lara's performance on Saturday night mimicked November's sensational effort by southpaw WBC emeritus middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 27 KOs), whose sledgehammer left hand planted Williams face-first and unconcious in the second round of yet another bout at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
In December of 2009, Williams was cut and bloody after having edged Martinez by majority decision.
In addition, Williams had looked shaky, tentative and flat during a bizzare, four-round, non-title, junior middleweight technical split-decision victory in May of 2010 over Cintron, who could not continue after apparently injuring his head, lower back and right leg after tumbling to the ringside floor before a disappointed crowd.
In this Q&A, Diaz shares his thoughts about the fact that most observers thought Lara had successfully beaten Williams, and also addresses the futures of each of the fighters, among other things.
BoxingScene.com: What was your opinion of the decision in favor of Paul Williams?
Miguel Diaz: I know that we were ahead by at least two or three points in the fight. I was really shocked when I heard the points. The first judge had it 114-114.
When I heard that, my reaction was, 'Who is that idiot?' I don't even want to say what I think of the other two judges who had Williams winning.
BoxingScene.com: How long were you able to work with Erislandy Lara given the fact that you were called in to replace Ronnie Shields?
MD: I never saw Lara training. Ronnie Shields had him in Houston. But since Ronnie Shields had a commitment to Kermit Cintron, they decided to bring me in as the chief second because I was coming any way as the cut man. I was his cut man when Lara fought Carlos Molina.
BoxingScene.com: When did you become aware of Erislandy Lara's strategy to go after Paul Williams with the left hand?
MD: That's something that I had known about. Lara's manager, Luis Decubas Jr. had been calling me every week from Houston. I knew about the strategy.
Luis was telling me, 'We're going to do this,', and, 'We're going to do that,' and, 'We're going to jab at him first.' They told me that if that didn't work, then 'We're going to be moving side to side.'
Then he said 'We're going to touch him up with the right jab and cross him up with the left hand.' But Paul Williams did not have a solution for that left hand, and so we just kept on working that.
BoxingScene.com: Were you surprised that Paul Williams never adjusted to the left hand that Erislandy Lara was throwing?
MD: No, I wasn't surprised. Because a fighter like Paul Williams, after that state of shock he was left in by the Argentinian guy, Martinez, that's very hard to come back from something like that.
You know, the subconcious of Paul Williams was probably telling him, 'Just keep throwing punches even if they are pity-pat punches, because if you don't, you're going to hit, and that's going to be good enough.' Eventually, those amateur judges were for him. I don't them any other names, but I'll just say that they were amateur judges.
Those judges, there were not knowledgeable. That's all that I'm going to say about them. After the fight, I received calls from everybody. Roy Jones came to me and said, 'Miguel, this is the biggest mistake by judges that I've ever seen in boxing.'
[ESPN's] Dan Rafael said that he had it eight rounds to four for Lara. [Top Rank Promotions matchmaker] Brad Goodman called me from Las Vegas and he told me, 'Miguel, I had it scored nine rounds to three for Lara.'
I said, 'Jesus Christ.' I thought that we won the fight by two or three points, but so many people who were unbiased and who were scoring the fight properly said, 'This was a one-sided fight for Lara.'
BoxingScene.com: Can you talk about how you successfully were able to get Erislandy through the fight despite the large lump over his left eye?
MD: Well, I treated Erislandy's injury with a lot of pressure and my end-swell. Eventually, the doctor came in one time after the third or the fourth round. That was as soon as the injury happened. But the good thing about that is that after he looked at it at that time, that was it.
He never came back, so that allowed me to handle the hematoma pretty good by myself. I think that the doctor saw me working on the thing, and he was satisfied, so he never came back. I really appreciate that the doctor never bothered us again after that.
As a matter of fact, I thanked him after the fight. Usually, any time that a fighter is cut or suffers an injury, the doctors are very anxious to come back and check on it.
That can make the fighters nervous and that can affect their performances. But the doctor never came back for the rest of the fight, so that helped Lara to focus on his strategy for the fight.
I was just keeping him calm and telling him, 'Don't worry.' When he saw the injury in the mirror, though, he realized that the lump was much bigger than he had thought.
BoxingScene.com: Was Erislandy Lara treated for the injury after the fight?
MD: Yes. He went to the hospital, and of course they took all of the medical information and eventually they told him that because he had suffered a fracture around his left eye that he could not go on the airplane.
So he couldn't fly back to Miami because he had a little fracture on the bone. So he had to drive to Miami because the pressure of a ride on an airplane could hurt him very much. That's what they told him at the hospital.
BoxingScene.com: What was the difference between the lump over Erislandy Lara's left eye against Paul Williams and the one on Hasim Rahman's left eye against Evander Holyfield?
MD: The difference between this hematoma and the Hasim Rahman hematoma is that Rahman's was much bigger than this one. And also, Rahman's was more toward the front of his head and not on the side.
Also, in the Rahman fight, I'm the one who told the doctor, 'Hey Doc, you've got to stop this one.' There's nothing that we can do. I put pressure on Rahman's head the same way that I put pressure on Lara's.
I used the end-swell and the ice pack and switched back and forth, but there was no way that the lump was going down. So it made no sense to keep working on Rahman and that opportunity. But this opportunity with Lara was on the side, and I was able to control it much better than the one that Rahman had on his head.
BoxingScene.com: Having been around the game for as long as you have, what is your assessment of Paul Williams as far as whether or not he should consider retirement?
MD: Yes sir. Yes sir. If Paul Williams was my fighter, I would be very, very cautious about putting him back into the ring for another fight.
MD: Because his legs were not there. The power of assimilation was not there. Immediately after the third round, we could see that his legs were not there. I don't know, it's something where you can't pinpoint one particular thing, but just, all around.
I think that Paul Williams really is done. Especially after [Saturday] night. Paul Williams took a shellacking [Saturday] night.