By Dave Spencer/ Fightnews Canada
It’s early Saturday morning and WBC light-heavyweight champion Adrian Diaconu is virtually alone in the basement gymnasium that is a second home to him, just the champion and his trainer Pierre Bouchard about to put the finishing touches what both parties believe was a successful training camp. Sparring is all done with, all the rounds put in the bank the undefeated fighter tapes up his hands to the rhythmic tones of Romanian music pulsating in the background. After years of being in the background, being behind charismatic countryman Lucian Bute and before that former lightweight champion Leonard Dorin, winning his championship in Romania, away from the media spotlight, Diaconu is about to bust out in huge way Friday night as he meets fellow Montrealer Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre in Montreal (10pm on Vs., Canada PPV).
Never before have two Canadians fought for a world championship on Canadian soil. Never have the city’s two rival promoters pitted their charges against each other before with Diaconu’s two fisted power up against the speed of Jean Pascal. Over 11,000 tickets have been sold with a week to go and a huge walk-up is expected with the hockey season finally put to bed.
“I’m nervous,” Diaconu says as we begin, pausing long enough for dramatic effect before finally adding, “for him.” It is a Diaconu we have never really glimpsed before, smiling, calm, still very stoic, but at peace and relaxed, pretty much the calm before the storm that will come Friday.
“I want people to like me for what I’m doing in the ring during the fight, not for big speeches on the radio or talking in the media.
“The most important thing is that I’m ready,” says the champ as he deliberately applies his wraps. “I want to show people that I can box, what it is to be world champion.” One would figure that with only two world champions in a boxing-mad town like Montreal, people would be well aware of who this powerhouse is. In fact, he’s only ever headlined once before in twenty Canadian appearances, and that to a small crowd in a venue geared towards a televised appearance. With fights almost every second week and new stars manufactured almost as often, ‘The Shark’ has often been forced to circle in a holding pattern, waiting before he can strike again. In fact it has been over a year since Diaconu has defended his belt won in Romania versus a never-say-die Chris Henry.
Diaconu has managed one non-title tune-up fight in that time, the whole while sustaining a series of stops and starts as championship fights slipped away through injuries and promotional problems.
“This is my first opportunity and I have a great opponent, I worked very hard for that belt. I was disappointed before, with every fight cancelled, postponed, postponed, but I think now that I’ve signed with Interbox, everything is well set up and we’re happy with the way things are. I’m happy to fight here in Montreal, I started to fight here eight years ago, I grew up here. The last few years I haven’t had that much here, but now I have a new start.”
That new start should serve Diaconu well, while it was obviously an incredible experience for the just turned thirty-one year old to go home and win the belt, the pressure was enormous. One only has to go back as far as Leonard Dorin and his return where unable to make weight, he ended leaving the belt on the scales to see what can happen. Diaconu was faced with an ailing father to contend with and the Country’s leader at ringside. “It was hard for me,” admits Diaconu. “That’s in the past though.”
For this bout, Diaconu can sit back while the flashy Pascal fills the spotlight that he craves, letting the former 2000 Olympian get on with business. “Probably I can talk after the fight, I don’t want to talk about boxing, I want to do boxing. I want to show people real boxing and real quality boxing. It’s not my style to talk, for me, talk is cheap. I want things to happen, not to talk about it.”
Not one to talk, there was little negotiating when the name of Pascal was served as the first defense for the WBC champion. “When I sat down and resigned with Interbox, they asked me what I thought of meeting Jean and whether I’d like to fight him, I said yes right away. Why not, it will be good for boxing here, it’s going to be good no matter what. In the ring, he’s like every opponent, I’m a professional and I have to face everyone, no matter if it’s Jean, of it’s (Silvio) Branco, (Glenn) Johnson, whoever they put there for me.”
In Pascal, Diaconu gets a former world title challenger coming up in weight after his only loss. While he will again be the shorter man in the ring, the 5’9” Diaconu will enjoy the luxury of fighting somebody a lot closer to his size after giving away at least six inches to the likes of Rico Hoye and being the smaller man versus Chris Henry. “All my opponents are taller than me because I’m a short guy, Jean will be taller than, but he’s not going strong like me.”
If there is one key component to Friday’s matchup, it will be that of stamina. Both fighters have questions marks surrounding past performances and both predictably have declared themselves in the best shape of their careers. Diaconu had things going his way in his title bout versus Henry but was hanging onto the tall Texan like a groom to be hugging the bowl after a three day stag. Similarly Pascal showed little after the seventh round in his decision loss versus Carl Froch. I’m going to go for a fight, you can’t finish the last round the same way you begin you begin the first one. I’m ready and I’m going to go for a fight, even if I get tired, you know I’m not going to give up, I would die in the ring before I do that. The preparation for this fight was very very good. I was basically at 70 percent the whole time preparing and waiting for Branco, we fought Whittom, took a week off, and started preparing for this fight. It’s going to different, everybody is happy, my preparation is better than before and I feel it.”
Two things that Diaconu took away from the Chris Henry fight to go with the green WBC belt. “I think I proved to myself that I’ve got a big heart and big balls,” he said of the exhausting win. Almost as important though was the realization that while in good shape, it could always be better.
“He came up to me in the hallway after the fight and told me I never want to be tired like again. It’s never going to happen again. That’s the biggest thing he learned that fight.”
When asked about his opponent’s decision to flee Montreal and set up training camp in Florida, Diaconu said it really didn’t matter. “I just take care of my own ass, it’s more important how I feel, not Jean, I can’t be in his skin and know what he’s thinking.”
While not discussing exact strategy, trainer Pierre Bouchard promises a strong start. “It’s going to be the three hardest rounds of life, if he survives that, we’ll see after that.”
“I’m going to go to fight,” adds Diaconu, “With power, with speed, I’m there to fight. People say I have no speed but they’re going to be surprised, I have a lot of speed. I’m an explosive guy, if people think I have no speed, that’s perfect. I’m confident in there, I know my body, I know what I can do in there.”