NEW YORK (June 19, 2006) – After Gamaliel Diaz shocked the boxing establishment by winning a thrilling, hard-fought, 12-round split decision over then-World Boxing Council (WBC) No. 2 contender Robert “The Ghost’’ Guerrero (Dec. 5, 2005 also on “ShoBox”), he thought he was headed for a showdown with the WBC’s top 126-pound contender, Nicky Cook.
The elimination bout, which was scheduled for June 16, 2006 in London, was cancelled, however, when Cook, the WBC No. 1, withdrew after he was told he could not train for several weeks because of shin splints. “I was in full training for a fight with Cook,” Diaz said. “When they told me he could not fight, I was extremely disappointed.”
Once he heard the cookout was not happening, Diaz’ promoter, Ignacio “Nacho” Huizar, wrote a letter to the WBC asking that Diaz be elevated to the mandatory position. The request was denied.
“They said (that in order for us to be ranked No. 1) we had to first fight the highest-rated available contender,” Huizar said. So who they gonna call? “We went down the list and came to The Ghost,” Huizar said. “Guerrero got lucky. He gets the chance for a rematch.’’
Diaz and the southpaw Guerrero will collide in the WBC eliminator, a 12-round bout, that will be the first rematch in the five-year history of “ShoBox,” on Friday, June 23 (SHOWTIME, 11 p.m. ET/PT). The winner will move closer to a shot at WBC Featherweight Champion Takashi Koshimoto.
Before he outhustled and spooked The Ghost last December, Diaz was ranked No. 7 by the WBC. A winner of 11 straight bouts and unbeaten in his last 19 (17-0-2), Diaz (20-5-2, nine KOs) is now the WBC No. 3 contender. Guerrero (17-1-1, 10 KOs) is rated No. 6.
The fight will air live from the Oakland/Alameda County Arena in Oakland, Calif. Like the initial encounter, which was held in Lemoore, Calif., Diaz will fight in front of a predominantly pro-Guerrero crowd.
“I did it before in front of his home fans, and I will do it again,” said Diaz, who triumphed 115-112, 114-113 and 112-115 despite losing a point for hitting behind the head in the 12th. “It is going to be a tough fight, but I am stronger now and more confident. I will be in better shape. Guerrero can say what he wants, but he cannot change anything. He knows I won the last time. He is afraid of me.”
Diaz often beat Guerrero to the punch. As the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) featherweight title fight progressed into the middle rounds, Guerrero looked frustrated and confused, while Diaz kept coming forward. Diaz, who never appeared to be seriously hurt in the match, seldom allowed the lanky, younger Guerrero to get into a comfortable groove. He forced Guerrero to give ground and took away his opponent’s distinct height advantage by connecting with the more significant blows. Diaz’ activity rate seemed to drop in the later rounds as the local favorite rallied, but it was not enough to cost him the decision.
“I thought in the fourth round that I had the fight won,” Diaz said. “I knew I was going to succeed. I have gone five years without a loss. I knew this fight was mine. It was the most important bout in my career. I wanted to fight the No. 2, and I won.
“Guerrero says he can fight better than he did in our first fight. Well, I know I can fight better. The rematch will prove the first fight was not a fluke and that I am for real.”
After lacing up the gloves for the first time at age 14 and going 25-5 in the amateurs, the-then-17-year-old Diaz lost his pro debut. A kid who idolized Julio Cesar Chavez won his next three starts before dropping four in a row. At 3-5, the majority of young fighters end up in another line of work, but Diaz stuck with it and has not lost since.
“I always had confidence in myself,” said Diaz, who captured the FECARBOX 126-pound crown with a 12-round majority decision over Ismael Gonzalez on Feb. 21, 2004.
A boxer-puncher with good skills and movement, Diaz is not a typical Mexican brawler.
“I come to fight, but I know I have to fight smart,” said Diaz, who made his initial 24 starts in Mexico before making back-to-back starts in Japan during his 2005 campaign. “You need your brain, too, in boxing.”
On May 3, 2005, in Okayama, Japan, Diaz dominated Naoto Fujiwawa en route to registering a ninth-round TKO. Fujiwara was bloodied and swollen around both eyes when the referee halted matters at 1:50 of the round.
Less than three months later on July 29, 2005, in Osaka, Diaz exited with an eighth-round technical decision (79-74 twice and 76 apiece) over Makoto Uehara. Diaz consistently outworked his opponent, who was cut over his left eye by a clash of heads in the fifth. The cut was examined by the doctor in the fifth, sixth and eighth rounds before the referee stopped the fight at 0:38 of the eighth.
Born in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, Diaz resides with his wife and three children in Mexico City.
Regarding his nickname, Diaz, “Platano means ‘banana’ in English. They started calling me that a few years ago when I came from Morelia to Mauro Ayala’s gym in Mexico City. I got the nickname because my skin color is kind of yellow, and my back is a little bit hunched, like a banana.”
Neither Diaz nor Guerrero can afford a slip-up in what will be a spectacular match-up on June 23.
The unbeaten Dirrell brothers, Andre and Anthony, will box in separate six-round super middleweight bouts on the “ShoBox” undercard. Andre (7-0, four KOs) will face Marcus Don “The Barber” Hall (11-1, 1 NC, four KOs) and Anthony (8-0, eight KOs) will meet James Morrow (9-2-2, 1 NC, four KOs). The tripleheader will be promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV