Photo: David Martin Warr / DKP
When Cuban heavyweight sensation Odlanier Solis challenges WBC champion Vitali Klitschko at Lanxess-Arena in Cologne this Saturday (March 19th) he has one man in his corner whom he has known for most of his life. Pedro Luis Diaz Benitez met Solis in Havana when he was still a young kid and immediately recognized his outstanding talent. “We compared him to Roberto Balado who was the best super heavyweight of the world at that time,” says Diaz. “It was obvious from the very first minute that the kid is special. He has got a spezial gift, he’s a natural born athlete. He would have been world class in whatever sport he would have decided to do. He is made for success and nothing but success.”
Diaz has been coordinating the training and preparation for the Cuban national team since 1989 and led the team to more than 20 Olympic gold medals. He started working closer with Solis before he won his first big international title at the Junior Panamerican Games in 1998 to kick off what became one of the most successful amateur careers in the history of boxing. Solis won the Junior World Championships in 1998, beat Felix Savon in the finals of the Cuban National Championships in 1999 (a title he defended five times in a row including another win of legendary Savon), won the Panamerican Games in 1999, became World Amateur Champion in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and crowned his career with Olympic gold in Athens 2004.
While Solis was winning the fight, Diaz was the mastermind preparing his “masterpiece” technically and tactically. “Solis is made for competition and big fights”, states Diaz. “He knows exactly what he has to do and is making the right decisions at the right time. This is what separates good fighters from the best.”
Diaz should know. After all he has been in charge of some of the best fighters of all times including Savon, Hector Vinent, Joel Casamayor and may more great champions.
After Solis had defected from the Cuban national team along with teammates and fellow Olympic gold medalists Yuriorkis Gamboa and Yan Barthelemy back in December 2006, Diaz decided to make his move and leave Cuba in 2007 and become national coach in the Dominican Republic.
“When I started my job there I promised to win at least one Olympic medal”, says Diaz. “They looked at me as if I was crazy but – as always in my life – I kept my word.” Junior welterweight Felix Diaz became Olympic champion in Beijing 2008 while the Cuban team didn’t bring home one single medal without their stars and their star coach Pedro Diaz.
After this success the “professor” who holds academic degrees in sports and training science decided to turn professional as well and found a new home in Canada where he started working with Jean Pascal. Diaz turned the skilled contender into a dominant world champion leading Pascal to wins over previously unbeaten Adrian Diaconu and unbeaten Chad Dawson.
“Whatever I do I make sure that I do it right”, states Diaz. “I always keep my word and work very hard for the success. I promised Solis and promoter Ahmet Oner that we will win the fight against Vitali Klitschko and I will not break this word. We know that Klitschko is a very strong and dominant world champion. He deserves to be where he is right now and he has an excellent coach with Fritz Sdunek. But he has never faced an opponent as skilled as Solis. It will be a very good heavyweight fight.”
Regardless of his personal merits Diaz knows that boxing may be an individual’s sport but you can only succeed as a team. “Everybody is only as good as the closest people around him”, says Diaz. “There is so much to do to prepare a fighter for a world title fight. I have to keep control of everything but I need to delegate as well. There is no way somebody can win a fight who doesn’t have a great team to back him up.”
Therefore Diaz brought a strong team to training camp and to the fight in Cologne including co-trainer Marc Ramsay, physical coach Efren Guerra, medical advisor Osvaldo Nordelo and manager Jose Perez. On Thursday cutman Russ Anber will complete the team.
Promoter Ahmet Oner is one hundred percent convinced of the work of his head coach and the team. “Pedro knows exactly what he’s doing”, says Oner. “He is a professional and he leaves nothing to coincidence. Him and Solis is a match made in heaven: The professor and his masterpiece.”
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RTL will produce the show and broadcast the fight live in Germany, EPIX will cover the show live in the USA starting at 6pm EST. The championship bout will be aired in more than 120 countries worldwide.