By Ben Jacobs
It was recently announced that esteemed trainer Pedro Díaz will be working with former WBO super-bantamweight and featherweight champion, Juan Manuel López.
BoxingScene had the opportunity to speak to the Cuban boxing guru by telephone from his Miami home on several subjects, including López, Guillermo Rigondeaux and others.
BoxingScene.com: Pedro, I understand you will be working with Juan Manuel López, is that correct?
Yes, I’m working with Juan. We did some medical tests such as an electrocardiogram, also some blood tests, and everything looks positive. So, from the medical point of view it’s all good. Now we can look to reorganize his career.
BoxingScene.com: Were these medical tests done because López complained about something, such as fatigue?
No. Any time that I work with a sportsman I do these medical tests. Any trainer has to view his fighter in two ways. The athlete that you see from the outside, the way he runs, the way he jumps - that’s the structural part. There’s also an athlete on the inside. The only way you can know how that is is through medical examinations. So that’s why I’m interested in the medical side of things as well, as well as the technical aspects and the physical side.
BoxingScene.com: How did you end up working together?
I’ve known Juan for a long time, even in 1996 I went to Puerto Rico and I had the chance to work with him when he was an amateur briefly. Then I went there for a course for boxing trainers and it was in Caguas, the same city that Miguel Cotto is from, he was there as well. So recently we spoke and he asked if it would be possible to train him. I said we’ll do some medical examinations, if there’s no problem there then we’ll start to train together.
BoxingScene.com: What does Juan need to do to get back to his best?
It’s too premature to say, in terms of technique. I know Juan Manuel López, I’ve seen him fight. He has lost three fights by knockout in his last six. We still haven’t had a training session but we will soon though. We need to recuperate him.
BoxingScene.com: You also train Guillermo Rigondeaux. Do you think there has been a lack of respect shown to him by some people in the sport?
It seems that some see Rigo as a boxer who doesn’t sell tickets, but for me, he just beat Nonito Donaire. He’s the [Floyd] Mayweather of the 122lb division. The fact that some people like him and some people don’t doesn’t matter. But me, as his trainer, I respect the decisions of the promoters and the managers, and I just concentrate on my work which is the technical and tactical side of things.
BoxingScene.com: Do you not feel there is some hypocrisy at times given that Rigondeaux’s style is criticized and yet Mayweather’s is now lauded? Some say there are similarities in their styles.
What I would say is that Rigondeaux is a great competitor; it’s not for nothing that he has two Olympic gold medals. He just beat the 2012 fighter of the year and it wasn’t a close fight. He beat him very very well. He got hit in the tenth round, he got up and he was impeccable in the eleventh and twelfth rounds, he was a lot better than in the early rounds. Anyone who knows about boxing knows we’re talking about a great competitor. He got hit with one big shot. How many shots did Nonito Donaire get hit with? How many? This is the boxing style of Floyd Mayweather and other great champions who have left a positive mark in the boxing world.
BoxingScene.com: What do you think about his potential next opponent, Joseph Agbeko?
I have a very clear philosophy in boxing. I respect the opponent and the trainers and their team. In boxing, every opponent is dangerous, but they’re not difficult when your preparation is good.
BoxingScene.com: Did you see Miguel Cotto’s fight against Delvin Rodríguez?
Yes, I did. Cotto has a great trainer in his corner, one of the best in the world. For me Freddie Roach is the world’s best trainer. Cotto is a great competitor and they make a good team. They have a good relationship and that showed against Rodríguez.
BoxingScene.com: Would you say Cotto still has enough to beat someone like Sergio Martínez?
I’ll say this, Sergio is a great competitor and [Pablo] Sarmiento is a great trainer but whether Cotto beats him is only something Freddie Roach could tell you.
BoxingScene.com: What did you make of the debut from Vasyl Lomachenko and do you think he could beat Orlando Salido in just his second fight?
Lomachenko has a very complicated fight to be able to beat Salido in only his second professional fight. Salido just showed that he’s always prepared. Salido is a great boxer. Lomachenko is also a great competitor but he’s just starting his professional career. I’d say it’s a very complicated fight. All the abilities he has and amateur experience means he can give Salido a good fight.
BoxingScene.com: As a Cuban, were you interested in the recent fight between Yoandris Salinas and Scott Quigg?
Yes, I saw the fight. Salinas could have done more for the victory. Quigg is a great fighter and he got better as the fight went on. It was a good fight. When you go to the opponents’ backyard, you really have to do more and show it in the ring. Salinas worked well but he lacked a proper finish for a world title fight. Salinas had to know he was fighting a great competitor in his own country and he had to basically win in a very convincing way, you know?
I’d just like to add, as you’re from England, I’m a big fan of Carl Froch. He’s a great warrior. I met him in New York and took some photos with him. I respect him and his team a lot.