Most people know Antonio Diaz as the middle brother of Coachella’s famous Diaz family, the rugged one who battled some of the best welterweights in the earlier part of the decade.
While looking in the mirror one day, Diaz couldn’t recognize the image on the other side of the reflection. It bothered him greatly.
“One day I looked in the mirror and then weighed myself and something snapped,” said Diaz (43-5-1, 29 KOs). “What the (heck) am I doing at 205 pounds?”
From that day on Diaz patrolled the gym with his brothers Joel and Julio and decided to trim the pounds while helping them.
Now a much slimmer version of the former junior welterweight titleholder Diaz returns to the boxing stage at the Omega Products International against slugger Juan Pablo Montes De Oca (9-14-2) on Friday, Aug. 29. The eight round non-televised bout is promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions.
“My brother Joel said don’t go by his record. Don’t get over confident,” said Antonio Diaz, 32, of his next opponent Montes De Oca. “I’m not taking him lightly. I’m going in with the mentality that he’s a strong, tough Mexican warrior with nothing to lose and everything to win.”
If you can’t remember the last time Diaz stepped in the ring, it was in August 2005, when he fought and beat Roberto Ortega by knockout in Palm Springs. Nobody knew at the time he would be sitting in mothballs for 36 months.
From 2000 to 2005 all of those crushing battles and hard training sessions began to wear down Diaz. The body that shrugged off left hooks from the best fighters in the world was now unable to absorb weak punches during sparring sessions.
“I was burned out, I felt tired. I didn’t want to be in the gym any more,” said Diaz. “My elbows were hurting every time I was missing a jab. I would get swelled up every time I got punched. I was fighting four or five fights a year. I did that for quite a while. I needed to reset and let my body take a break.”
Most people forget that Diaz traded blows with a Who’s Who of junior welterweights and welterweights in the early part of this decade that included Sugar Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Emmanuel Augustus, Cory Spinks and Ivan Robinson. All of those fights were wars.
“That’s his style of fighting. Antonio is always going to make it a war,” said younger brother Julio Diaz. “I wish we could change him but that’s the only gear he has. He wants to wear you down.”
An unplanned three-year sabbatical replenished his body and while helping prepare his older brother Joel Diaz train an impressive roster of fighters WBC junior welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley, junior lightweight hopeful Dominic Salcido and former world champion lightweight champion Julio Diaz, he realized he still had a lot to offer in the pro ranks.
It was Julio Diaz who nudged Antonio to return to the wars.
“I convinced him to come back. I told him he’s still good, he’s still young, that he just needs to work hard,” said Julio Diaz by telephone. “He had a four win winning streak and he just stopped. I said he had to do it right and come back.”
Not only did Julio Diaz convince Antonio to return, he also became his manager.
“Julio knows a lot about negotiations. He knows how to talk politically more than I do,” said Antonio Diaz. “He’s a good talker.”
Julio’s first act as manager was to accept a risky 12-round fight against no-nonsense pugilist Felix Flores in that fighter’s home state Florida for the vacant WBO Latino junior middleweight title last month.
Diaz won by split-decision.
“We were booed there, it was awesome,” said Julio Diaz of the reception they got from Flores' hometown crowd. “We took the aggressive direction instead of having a few warm up fights to see if he (Antonio) had anything left.”
Julio Diaz chuckles a bit thinking about the gamble.
“It could have backfired but I wanted to put a worst case scenario in front of him to make sure that he really wanted to fight again,” said Julio Diaz. “We had to see if he still had that lion’s heart he always had before.”
Matchmaker Alex Camponovo, a shrewd boxing analyst, said that the return of Antonio Diaz could be another spark for the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions.
“He’s an elite fighter,” said Alex Camponovo of Thompson Boxing Promotions. “He had some tough war against Micky Ward and Shane Mosley and he’s back to prove he can do a lot more.”
Other fights on the card
Tijuana’s Pavel Miranda (15-2) returns to the ring after suffering a knockout loss in the Cayman Islands. He doesn’t get an easy fight this time either as he faces Riverside’s super tough Alex Viramontes (9-5) in an eight round welterweight battle.
Mira Loma’s Mauricio Herrera (5-0), who is trained by Willy Silva, returns to the area to face Santiago Perez, (10-1-2) the son of the famous Sugar Ramos, in another welterweight bout scheduled for eight rounds.
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