By Chris Robinson
It's been a while since former lightweight champion Juan 'Baby Bull' Diaz has scored a big victory under boxing's spotlight. Having gone 0-2 in his most recent fights, unanimous decision losses to Juan Manuel Marquez last summer and to Paulie Malignaggi in December of 2009, Diaz has flown under the radar with little word on his ring future being said.
But when I spotted the 27-year old last month at the 'Action Heroes' event inside of the MGM Grand headlined by Marcos Maidana's war with Erik Morales, Diaz looked to be in solid shape and had great spirits about him. Sure enough, during a recent conversation with the Houston, Texas fighter, he revealed to me that he has been making some moves for a comeback some time this summer.
"I've been working out for the past two or three months," said Diaz. "Just trying to get in shape and now that I feel I have achieved that goal and I am looking at possibly fighting sometime in July. Nothing's for sure yet. We are speaking to a few promoters, looking at different people who have fights coming up."
Diaz went 33-0 with 17 knockouts to kick off his career, showing endless energy, stamina and will in rolling over formidable foes such as Jose Miguel Cotto, Julio Diaz, and Acelino Freitas, among others. But he was caught off guard by a motivated Nate Campbell in March 2008 inside of a bullring in Cancun, Mexico, and suffered his first setback.
Dating back to that loss, Diaz has gone 2-4 in his last six fights and he admits that he needed to regroup.
"Yeah, it's definitely been, I guess you could call it a roller coaster ride," he continued. "With my last two fights, big fights against Marquez and Malignaggi, I've been up and down between winning and losing. I had a year to kind of relax and think about things."
Diaz bounced back from the Campbell loss with a solid victory over game Michael Katsidis that saw him out hustle the Australian over twelve fast-paced rounds. It put him back in the picture but danger was just around the corner in the form of a clash with Mexico City's Juan Manuel Marquez, who had recently moved up from the jr. lightweight class.
The first Diaz-Marquez clash was an absolute thriller, named 2009's Fight of the Year, as Diaz stormed out of the gates while putting on tremendous pressure and dictating the early pace of the fight. But Marquez, always one to show his brilliance against an aggressive foe, remained patient and worked his way back into the fight, eventually stopping Diaz in chilling fashion in registering a 9th round knockout.
To this day, Diaz admits that it was that defeat that has hurt him the most.
"I would have to say the hardest loss was to Marquez," he admitted. "Even though the first loss of my career was bad, it wasn't as bad as the Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Because in that fight I put all my heart and soul into that fight, the first fight, and I believed in my heart that I was going to win. I believed it so bad that nobody could tell me 'No' that night but obviously he did and that's what really hurt me. I took it the hardest."
When looking at the current boxing landscape, there is one foe who figures to be a perfect foil for Diaz's non-stop attack; WBA lightweight champion Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios. The two men recently could be found exchanging some heated words with one another via their personal Twitter accounts and the fight seems to make perfect sense if Diaz can get a tune up fight or two under his belt.
Giving his take on Rios feud, Diaz cleared the air of their little online spat.
"I didn't necessarily call him out. He went on my Twitter and he wrote me a direct message, saying that I wasn't ready for him, especially not now, and that he was on the top of his weight division. So I responded to that message and said that I was back, I was going to teach him a lesson, and I was just letting him borrow my belt right now," Diaz said resoundingly.
What's impressive about Diaz is that his work ethic has never been confined to just the sport of boxing, as he has shown himself to have a certain versatility and business savvy about himself over the years. While boxing is still a passion, the modest Diaz is setting up shop in Texas for when his days in the ring come to a close.
"Right now my brother and I have a construction company and a transportation business that we are managing right now," Diaz added. "I also got accepted into law school and I'm hoping that maybe I will get deferred for about a year because I want to give this boxing one more year and a half and really try and become champion. I'm focused on those three other aspects of my life, which is construction, transportation, and hopefully law school."
But for now it's only boxing. And a fighter as willing and exciting as Diaz is always going to be a welcome addition back on the scene when he is ready. Although he hasn't said much in recent months, Diaz admits that he has been keeping a close eye on the sport and that his hunger has been building.
"Definitely. Every fight that comes on, I get inspired. Every fight. Friday Night Fights, Showtime fights, HBO fights, I've seen them and they just inspire me to go in there the next day and just hit the gym hard and go all out."