By James Slater
Former two-time IBF lightweight king Julio Diaz might be being looked at by some judges/fans as former WBA/IBF 140-pound champ Amir Khan’s “opponent” ahead of Saturday’s big fight in Sheffield, but the proud Mexican warrior has a steely and refreshing attitude that is wholly convincing.
Thursday, at the “Return of The King” press conference in The Steel City, most of the gathered media spoke with Khan, yet Fightnews found the opportunity to speak with Diaz, and the 33-year-old with the 40-7-1(29) record came across as one wholly motivated yet level-headed fighter.
Here is what Diaz had to say about Saturday’s bout:
Q: Virgil Hunter (Khan’s trainer) said you’d better get a KO win, because if you don’t get a KO win, Khan will be willing and able to put a very, very fierce beating on you. How did you feel when he said that?
Julio Diaz: I paid no attention. I’m a veteran at this game and I know how this works. He [Hunter] tried to do some verbal intimidation to me – these tricks don’t work on me. I’m very focused on my game-plan. I’m confident in the work we’ve done, with the team, and I know the capability I have and the strength that I’m carrying right now. I appreciate what Amir Khan can do, I’ve gotta surprise him.
Q: Do you feel you need to get the KO, or are you not concerned with the U.K judges, being robbed an everything, and the possibility of the fight going to the cards?
J.D: He [Hunter] is correct on that – and I am concerned about that [being robbed]. I am going for the knockout. I’m fighting for the knockout and that’s the only way I’ll go out – with a knockout.
Q: You didn’t get the win that most people thought you should have last time out, with the draw against Shawn Porter. So you are worried about judges going against you?
J.D: Right, because I don’t want that again, especially here. So I know the best way to secure my victory is to clean him up and leave no doubts to the judges. I’ve trained hard, and for the full 12-rounds. I’m coming to break him down. I’m gonna get the victory I want.
Q: You say break Khan down, so you think the fight will go to the later rounds?
J.D: I’ve got to be very aggressive, but [be] smart aggressive. I’ve got to be cautious because Amir Khan is Amir Khan; he’s explosive, he’s fast – I’ve got to give him credit. So I can’t just say I’m gonna run right over him. I’ve gotta break him down the proper way.
Q: Obviously you’re not looking past this fight in any way, but you feel a win would lead to another world title shot? Do you think you are better than ever at age 33, with all your experience and everything?
J.D: Yeah, definitely. Beating Amir Khan is my ticket to get a fight with the elite, either Danny Garcia or Lamont Peterson, any of those fights. It’s step by step. The last fight [Vs. Porter], I had a test, I passed that. This is just another test. I’ve got to get past this one and take it fight by fight. It’s all about getting my confidence back.