By Jake Donovan
At least one of these things is bound to happen in 2017 - Felix Diaz will land a big fight, or the opponents of whom he is in hot pursuit will learn Spanish in a hurry.
The once-beaten welterweight contender remains frustrated over the best at 140 and 147 all but refusing to acknowledging his presence. The 2008 Olympic Gold medalist from Dominican Republic scored the biggest win of his career - a 10-round decision over previously unbeaten Sammy Vasquez live in primetime on free-to-air Fox TV last July - and had hoped to parlay the feat into the type of ring opportunity that would change his career.
Instead it's been more of the same as he watched the likes of Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia and Adrien Broner all move in directions far clear of his own path.
"I made it very clear to my promoter DiBella Entertainment and (adviser) Al Haymon that I want the best,” Diaz told BoxingScene.com, repeating what he stated late last year. “Danny Garcia, Terence Crawford, Adrien Broner, Ricky Burns, Andre Berto, another go at Lamont Peterson - I want to be challenged in 2017.
"Since they all want to head in another direction, I'm gonna come find them all. They may not understand me right away, but my manager (Jose Nunez) can translate that they on my list and I ain't letting up 'till (at least) one of them get in the ring with me.”
Diaz (19-1, 9KOs) and his team were angling for a showdown with Crawford last December, in the wake of the suggestion that Haymon and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum were open to do business together after a long-standing feud that included a well-publicized lawsuit that was eventually dismissed last summer.
The latter portion of the equation proved true to a small degree, but just enough to come at Diaz' expense. It was another Haymon client, fringe contender John Molina Jr. who was served up as a sacraficial lamb for Crawford in lieu of what on paper figured to have been a far more competitive fight with Diaz. Crawford claimed a one-sided 8th round stoppage of Molina, who showed up undertrained and overweight.
"It made me sick to watch that fight," admits Diaz, who wound up taking a stay-busy fight in his native Dominican Republic, knocking out Levis Morales in six rounds one week after Crawford-Molina. "That guy gets the fight over me, and he don't even appreciate the opportunity. Terence Crawford got a free payday that night."
The unbeaten World super lightweight champion - who has become a one-man pro sports franchise in his Omaha, Nebraska hometown - hoped to next land reigning welterweight titlist and all-time great Manny Pacquiao sometime this spring. That fight has virtually no chance of happening in that time frame - if ever at all - as the punching Philippines senator is being steered toward an April 23 showdown with unbeaten Aussie contender Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia.
That scenario - coupled with the fact that virtually every other 140 lb. titlist or notable contender is currently occupied - leaves Crawford with limited options for a hoped-for springtime ring return. Suffice to say, there's at least one willing contender looking to fill that void.
"Bud had to have his people fight hard to get him back in the ring in December; I know he doesn't want another year where he only fights twice (2015) or has to kick and scream to get three fights (2016)," points out Nunez. "We were available to fight him last year, and our promoter Lou DiBella worked hard to try to make that fight happen.
"We're still here, ready and available to take him on. Bud Crawford (has) show he wants the best, he showed it when he fight (Viktor Postol) last summer. He can't keep fighting Hank Lundy and John Molina, HBO ain't giving out no more dates for fights like that. He needs a real challenge, for himself and to get back on TV. We're ready to give him that challenge and his first loss."
Until a big fight is solidified, the top players at 140 and 147 can expect to see him during fight week and in the aftermath of their own upcoming bouts. Diaz plans to make his presence felt both on February 18 in Cincinnati when Broner takes on Adrian Granados (whom Diaz beat in Nov. '14) and on March 4 in Brooklyn, where he fully intends to challenge the winner of the highly anticipated welterweight title unification clash between unbeatens Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman.
"They can play the card that they don't know me or understand me," Diaz jokes. "But they'll eventually Spanish for words like "pussy" and "coward" - and they'll all learn that they can't duck me forever. I'm coming after all these guys, whether it's 140, 147 or somewhere in between. I'm calling them out in the media, I'm stepping to them in person and I'm gonna be in their head until they come around and fight me.
"2017 is gonna be a big year for me, it's gonna be a year where if you got a belt or rank and you're near my weight, then you're in my way."