by David P. Greisman
The next opponent for Juan Diaz — whose comeback continues on March 1 on the undercard to the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera rematch in San Antonio — is Gerardo Robles, confirmed Diaz in a conversation with BoxingScene.com on Jan. 24.
Robles, 31, is 16-12 with 7 KOs and is coming off two losses in 2013. His record also includes defeats against Rances Barthelemy in 2011 and Diego Magdaleno in 2010, both by decision.Diaz is 30 years old now, and the former unified lightweight titleholder has a record of 38-4 with 19 KOs. Those defeats coming against Juan Manuel Marquez (twice), Paulie Malignaggi and Nate Campbell.
Diaz took two and a half years off from the sport and returned this past April with a stoppage of Pipino Cuevas Jr., scored a technical knockout of Adailton De Jesus in August, and outpointed Juan Santiago in October.
Diaz spoke with BoxingScene on Jan. 24 about the Robles bout, returning to San Antonio, his new boxing gym, the fights he wants in the lightweight division, and more.
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about Gerardo Robles?
Diaz: “I’ve seen some film on him. Brad Goodman from Top Rank sent me some film. He’s a very aggressive fighter. He’s a deceiving fighter, because his record doesn’t do justice as to how he can fight and how hard he can punch. He’s one of those guys that if you’re not careful, then you’ll be in a tough, tough fight. I know that he comes forward and he throws a lot of punches.”
BoxingScene.com: Do you think that his style is a good match for your style?
Diaz: “Absolutely. I think that it makes for a fan-friendly fight. I love when guys that I fight come forward, put pressure on, because I do the same thing. So when two pressure fighters meet up and both of us are going forward, then it gives fight fans an entertaining fight.”
BoxingScene.com: And so you’ll want to also put on pressure, rather than box him?
Diaz: “Yeah. I am, because I’ve never met any fighter out of my 38 fights [38 wins in 42 fights] who has pushed me back. So I know that I’m pretty confident that in the lightweight division, I can push any fighter that I want back. That’s my strength. My strength is to be a pressure fighter and to wear my opponents down.”
BoxingScene.com: It’s been nearly 10 years since you last fought in San Antonio. You were making your first defense of your lightweight world title at the time. What do you think the difference will be for you, fighting there then and fighting there now?
Diaz: “I actually remember the gentleman’s name. It was Julien Lorcy from France. Julien Lorcy was pretty good. The San Antonio crowd responded very well. They came out and supported me. This time it’s a little different. I’m not the main event. I’m not even the co-main event. So I believe that although the emphasis is going to be placed on Chavez Jr., even though I believe that I’m going to get about 8,000 people to go just to support me there in San Antonio. But it’s going to be a little different because the crowd is not going to be all for me. A lot of them are going to be for the main event.”
BoxingScene.com: But not every guy who’s not the main event or co-feature can say he thinks thousands of people are going to come out for him.
Diaz: “Absolutely. Not a lot of people can say that, and I believe that’s why Top Rank is putting me on the Texas show, and especially on a card like the rematch between Chavez and Vera. I believe that they want to make a statement here in Texas and really see a big crowd out there on March 1.”
BoxingScene.com: How long have you been in camp for this fight?
Diaz: “I’ve been in for about one month now. At the start of February, I’ll be going into the second month of training. Usually I stay in the gym. I stay in shape. But real training starts about six to weight weeks [before].”
BoxingScene.com: And you’re training in your new gym that you just started, right?
Diaz: “Yes, I just started the Baby Bull Boxing Academy. We had an open house last week, and the official grand opening is going to Feb. 1.”
BoxingScene.com: You’ve been staying busy, then, and not only preparing for this fight. What made you want to start your own boxing gym?
Diaz: “Let’s touch on your topic of staying busy. I believe that I have the right people working for, or working with me, so it makes my life a little easier. The reason why I decided to start the gym was because I thought about my legacy: What would Juan ‘Baby Bull’ Diaz’s legacy be? I believe that by starting up the gym, I’m going to leave a legacy behind.
“All the accomplishments I’ve had, I believe that this is probably going to be what people are going to look back and say, ‘This is his legacy. He became a world champion and was successful and had a lot of business interests, but he also gave back to the community.’ I want to give back to kids who maybe are coming up in a tough environment, give them a way out, give them something to look forward to. If it’s going to the gym every day, then it makes it worth it for me.”
BoxingScene.com: Who think wins Ricky Burns vs. Terence Crawford?
Diaz: “I believe Terence Crawford will win that fight because he’s a very slick boxer, has quite a bit of punch, and he has a variety. I’ve seen him fight, slug it out at times, and him coming forward in his last fight, which to be honest with you I thought was boring, but he boxed the whole fight and he boxed as a southpaw. I think Ricky Burns is an awkward fighter, he moves around, comes in and out, but I don’t see too much variety in his boxing. I believe that Crawford is going to be the clear winner out of that fight.”
BoxingScene.com: Last time we spoke, you said you wanted one more bout and then the big names in your division. Is that still the plan?
Diaz: “Yep, that’s the plan. I believe that Gerardo Robles is a step up from my last opponent, so now, after this fight, I’m going to feel confident and ready that I can take on, whether it’s a top 10 opponent, or a No. 1 contender, or even the champion, I believe that I’ll be ready for whoever they put in front of me after this fight.”
BoxingScene.com: Last time we spoke, you said you wanted Ray Beltran more than anybody else. Is that still the case, or do you want the winner of Burns-Crawford more?
Diaz: “At one point, I figured that maybe I was going to get the Beltran fight on this card or on this date, but it didn’t happen. So I don’t really care who it is in my next fight. I’m ready to fight the winner out of Crawford and Burns, if so. Whoever Top Rank decides to put me in the ring with after this March 1 fight, I’ll be ready.”
BoxingScene.com: Last year there was a report about a potential fight between you and Omar Figueroa, though it never happened. Omar Figueroa is another lightweight who’s increasingly popular in Texas. What do you think of him?
Diaz: “I think Omar Figueroa is a great action fighter, first of all. He was in a candidate for Fight of the Year against [Nihito Arakawa]. He’s a tough fighter. He’s one of those fighters that can punch. I believe that Omar Figueroa has a lot of strengths in his arsenal, and I believe we’ll be seeing him in the division for a while as a champion.”
BoxingScene.com: What about a bout with him?
Diaz: “I believe a fight with him would more than likely, I’m almost sure, make for a fight of the year. If not, it’ll be close, because his style, my style, and then both of us being Texas boys, I’m pretty sure if it ever was to happen, it would happen in Texas and be just a big fight, a fight of wills, who would want to come out on top and victorious.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want people to know?
Diaz: “I want them to know that I’m working on the best coffee in the world, and that’s Baby Bull Coffee. That’s one thing that is taking off like wildfire and I want to share with the world. They can check me out at BabyBull.com and see what Baby Bull Coffee is all about.”
BoxingScene.com: How does that work — do you knock them out and the coffee wakes them up?
Diaz: “(laughs) Actually, it has a little punch to it in the mornings. If you wake up in the morning and you’re lazy and you’re dragging, you take a little cup of Baby Bull coffee and you’re good to go.”
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at email@example.comTags: Juan Diaz