by Chris Robinson
Late last year, well-respected trainer and cut man Miguel Diaz took on the challenge of trying to find a way to defeat unbeaten junior welterweight champion Timothy Bradley. Fighting on the undercard of the third Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez encounter on November 12th inside of the MGM Grand, Diaz was working the corner of faded former champion and Cuban southpaw Joel Casamayor, who he had briefly been training in Las Vegas ahead of the bout.
Things didn’t work out too well for Diaz on that night, however, as Casamayor put forth a listless effort against Bradley and failed to mount an attack or show any kind of initiative during the contest. After nearly eight one-sided rounds, and seeing that Bradley was beginning to turn up the heat, a merciful Diaz opted to throw in the towel to signal the fight’s end.
Looking back on that evening, Diaz admits he had a much different plan in mind.
“Our strategy was to make Casamayor bring the fight to him immediately,” Diaz would tell me recently. “Countering didn’t exist for that fight, you have to go forward. But unfortunately, Casmayor, with little training and little time, he didn’t even have the desire to do it.”
But the simple fact that it took so long for Bradley to get warmed up against the 40-year old Casamayor told Diaz a lot.
“I don’t know if it was [trainer] Joel Diaz who was telling him ‘Take it easy, don’t put no pressure on him’ or if it was Bradley respecting the name of Casamayor,” said Diaz. “It took eight rounds for me to stop the fight. Actually it took seven rounds for him to really open up on a guy who would have been knocked out in the first or second round. And this told me the mentality of Bradley. He doesn’t have that kind of killer instinct with the guy on a top level.”
Bradley’s name is on the forefront as much as it has ever been these days, as he is presently eyeing a June 9th assignment against WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao. Having been in Pacquiao’s corner his past seven fights as a cut man, Diaz has seen the tenacity of the Filipino icon on an intimate basis and can’t get Bradley’s performance against Casamayor out of his head when comparing the two prizefighters.
“When you are on that level, a good, smart fighter will realize, no matter what you talk before, ‘Be careful, this guy is tricky’, when the fighters are in the ring, you should know about it. And that’s what I think Pacquiao has in his favor. As much as Bradley is on top and he’s a champion, I don’t think he is as wise in the ring,” Diaz stated.
Having worked for Top Rank for several years, Diaz spent many nights working the corner of Antonio and Julio Diaz, younger brothers to Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz. And while Diaz never got to know Joel nearly as well, he was quick to give him his just due.
“When you develop a kid like that, and he’s a good little fighter, and then he’s got another couple of fighters that are developing into good fighters, you’ve got to give him respect,” stated Diaz.
Speaking further on what Bradley brings to the table, I got the sense that Diaz was a bit underwhelmed by the 28-year old titleholder.
“Bradley is a kid that doesn’t really have anything too special to talk about,” said Diaz. “It’s not like he’s a great puncher, he’s not a great fighter, he doesn’t have a great defense, he’s open to get hit. But the most important thing, he’s going to be there and he’s a solid fighter all around. It’s going to take the best Pacquiao to beat the best Bradley, no doubt about it. Pacquiao cannot leave anything in his workout before the fight.”
Asked what advice he might have for Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach in their pursuit of Bradley, Diaz kept it simple.
“Go after him,” Diaz said sharply. “If I was the trainer, I don’t know what Freddie’s going to do, but considering how good Pacquiao is offensively, that would be my suggestion.”
Diaz is presently in the gym on a dialy basis with undefeated Cuban junior lightweight prospect Rances Barthelemy, who faces off with Denmark's Robert Osiobe this Friday night at the nearby Texas Station Casino. The Barthelemy-Osiobe contest will serve as part of a Showtime-televised tripleheader on the popular series ShoBox: The New Generation.