The kid is impossible to root against. Humble, respectful, ambitious, a true credit to himself, his family, his upbringing, his heritage and to the sport, Juan Diaz is a boxer who you have to hope makes it as big as possible in this most dangerous game.
But EM thinks that the kid will not be graced with the W on Saturday night, in his rematch with the Mexican ace Juan Manuel Marquez. The two tangled in a swell scrap in February 2009, and it looked by all accounts that The Baby Bull had grown adult horns, and was going to gore Marquez, who looked like a geriatric bullfighter stricken by a bad bout of arthritis early on at the Toyota Center. But then the bullfighters juices got flowing, and The Baby Bull found himself sucking the air, looking for some extra oxygen to feed his burning and failing lungs. The bullfighter administered the coup de grace, the finishing thrust, in the ninth round, and was awarded a TKO9 win for his trouble.
Diaz (now 25-3, with just 17 KOs) gloved up twice since then, both times against Paulie Malignaggi. The first time, savoring the Gale Van Hoy Advantage, he won a controversial decision (UD12) in his hometown. In that rematch, in Chicago, Malignaggi handily outboxed him (UD12). Diaz didnt look stellar, as he allowed Malignaggi to stick, and move his way to the win. The Diaz effort looked a tad bit worse after we saw what Amir Khan did to Paulie in the Brooklyners most recent outing.
We wondered, had The Baby Bull peaked, at age 26? A pro since 2000, had too many fights, and too much gym-wear, simply diminished him?
We still wonder.
And sad to say, EM has an inkling that the Bulls best days may have come in 2007, when he retired Acelino Freitas. Moving forward, Diaz all action style, his punches in bunches manner, I figured, would make up for a distinct lack of power.
Didnt really pan out that way.
He lost to Nate Campbell, and had a war against Michael Katsidis, the sort that takes a year or two or more off a career for someone who came in less than fresh.
But hope still reigns. The Bull is still snorting, still pawing the dirt, still ready to rumble. He says he has his head on straight, that he isnt fighting for money, or fame, or for any of the wrong reasons now. (Floyd Mayweather might argue with Diaz as to what the right reasons to fight are, but anyway...) He says his fitness is the best its ever been, and that he isnt ready to pursue that law degree hes working on, or go full-time into the construction business he and his brother run.
It brings me no joy to write this, it almost goes without saying, but I see Diaz coming out on the short end at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday. Not because his head isnt on straight, or his fitness isnt as advertised. But because he has limitations, and those will be exploited by the savvy sniper Marquez (50-5).
JMM could, of course, get old overnight. Heck, hes basically old now. The guy turns 37 next month. Maybe he gets overwhelmed on Saturday, maybe he cant pull the trigger, maybe his muscles get tight, like Shane Mosleys did against Floyd Mayweather two months ago.
But I doubt it.
What about you?
Weigh in. Who ya like?
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV