Feature Story

Diaz: I fought like an amateur

By Jeff Zimmerman
Photo by Robert Hughes

Former Lightweight World Champion Juan “The Baby Bull” Diaz (35-3 17 KOs) and 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist Rocky Juarez (28-6-1 20 KOs) took their show on the road, with a quick jaunt to Dallas from the comfort of their Houston homes to hype the upcoming mega pay-per-view on Saturday, July 31st in Las Vegas where Diaz seeks revenge against Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez (50-5-1 37Kos) in a rematch of their 2009 fight of the year. Dallas media and fans alike welcomed the popular and personable fighters at the state of the art Maple Ave Boxing Gym. Both fighters put on an informal workout of hitting the mitts, jump roping and shadow boxing to the delight of all in attendance. They were also gracious in taking pictures and signing autographs for the fans.

Photos: Robert Hughes

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Diaz is looking to avenge a brutal 9th round KO from Marquez while Juarez tries to position himself one more time for that elusive world championship. Both shared their thoughts on their upcoming fights and what they need to do to come out victorious as well as life after boxing. Also, Fightnews cornered the always affable and highly respected trainer of Diaz, Ronnie Shields, and got insight of what needs to happen differently this time around for Diaz to come out victorious.

Diaz was very honest about his loss to Marquez and the mistakes he made.

“I fought him like an amateur, I went in there and threw a lot of punches and even though the game plan was working, I kind of deviated a little bit when I starting coming in and squaring up right in front of him, obviously he capitalized on that.”

Fightnews asked Diaz how he would change his approach after the first fight, where in his words “I fought like an amateur” since he is known for his relentless attack and volume punching and whether it’s more mental or physical.

“It’s a little bit of both. I have to, you know everyone knows me for putting tremendous pressure and being very aggressive but I have to use that to my advantage. The first fight I let that take full control even in the later rounds when I was slowing down I still kept pushing forward and forward instead of slowing down a little bit, keeping my boxing stance and staying focused, I just decided to keep going and going and fighting without even thinking.”

On how his corner of Ronnie Shields and Willie Savannah will help him strategize during the fight, Diaz shared with Fightnews: “The main concern or strategy is to listen to them because the last time around they had the perfect game plan, I just didn’t listen to them. When I came back to the corner and Ronnie was telling me to take a round off, use your jab a little bit, use your defense, I refused to listen to him; I just wanted to keep going forward and forward. And them being the corner, the outside looking in, they could see my mistakes better than I can, that was one of the things I refused to do was listen to them.”

The Baby Bull clearly has his future mapped outside the ring as well.

“Well, I am not going to stay for a long time [laughing], because I have so many things going on outside of boxing. I am giving myself a good 2 or 3 more years that I could do the sport. I’m 26 now; I don’t want to go beyond my 30’s or get up there in the 30’s and still be fighting. I plan on pursuing other options.”

With so many outside interests, Diaz is still only focused on one thing.

“Right now, my main, primary concern is Marquez. I am focused 100% on him. I know that by beating him, once I beat him, everything else will fall in place. My #1 objective right now is to beat Juan Manuel Marquez come July 31st.”

Fightnews caught up with talented trainer Ronnie Shields and asked him what Juan could do differently to beat Marquez this time around.

“You know we just have to fight and we have to make some adjustments, we made some mistakes and mistakes you pay for and he paid for the mistake and now basically I think this fight will be the same, we just have to make a few adjustments and that’s what we are working on in the gym now. Juan is really looking good, doing great and we look forward to winning.”

On Juan’s admission to not listening to his corner in the first fight, Shields provided the specifics on what it was.

“One thing is he started walking in without jabbing and not letting Marquez to have to use his head, use his feet or anything, just walking straight to him without throwing a punch and that’s one thing we have to correct. He leaned in a few times, that’s why he got hit by uppercuts and of course those don’t feel good at all so you know he just made a few mistakes and I like said we corrected the mistakes and now were looking forward and Juan is going to be Juan, he’s going to fight the same way he has always fought with just a few minor adjustments that we added in.”

Shields envisions fights in the courtroom in the future for Diaz, but for now boxing is his priority.

“I do see Juan being a lawyer, but right I know his focus is on boxing so as long as he is focused on boxing my thing is to try and help him get to where he wants to be and start with this fight with Marquez, he wants to get back and be champion of the world. And I think he still has a few years left and the most important thing is to take care of him to make sure everything is ok and after boxing I think he is going to have a stellar career as an attorney.”

Although former Olympian Rocky Juarez does not own the world titles like Diaz, he has fought some of the very best in the business including Marco Antonio Barrera twice, Chris John twice and Juan Manuel Marquez. And he does not plan to retire until he gets another shot at a title and a victory.

On what he needs to do to get another crack at the title, Juarez shared this with Fightnews.

“Well I need to win fights basically. I don’t know, I haven’t counted, but in my last 8-10 fights I have probably lost five or something like that. I am not too sure. I have never been knocked out or anything like that. You know my thing is I need to win fights, you know, I have been very blessed to be having these opportunities I have been given in my career on public network TV and just to be in the public eye. I feel that this opportunity coming July 31st against Jorge Linares is a great opportunity for me, to get my name back out there, to be on the top level of competition, to fight against the best fighters out there for another world title.”

Juarez was impressed with Linares in his fight against Oscar Larios but believes he has the game plan to win.

“Well you know Linares is – well I went to the fight with him and Oscar Larios and he basically ran over Oscar Larios but Larios was kind of on his way down and Linares was the bigger guy. He looked good beating him, I could say that. You know I have fought against the best fighters out there and whatever Linares is bringing to the table is not going to surprise me at all. I got a lot of amateur experience as well as professional. I’m 30 years old, I consider myself a young veteran in the boxing ring but you know my game plan right now is just to – we have been working on all different kinds of things, whether he wants to fight inside that will work for my benefit, if he wants to box on the outside you know I can box but its all about solving the problem which is finding the best fight that best style for me to win this fight.”

Juarez shared his thoughts of Marco Antonio Barrera coming back and maybe even fighting him again.

“You know I would love to fight Barrera again, I think the first fight I was robbed, you could argue with that. The 2nd fight he fought a good game plan in which I didn’t fight my fight. But looking at fighters like Marquez, those are the fighters that I go by that never left the game and that are doing as good as their doing at their age. So my motivation is, I’m 30 years old, my motivation is to basically be world champion, that’s what I mostly go off of and I continue to stay in the gym, work hard and look at that mountain peak which is to become world champion. “

And even if he never wins the world title, Juarez is still satisfied with his career.

“You know, my world title, I have always tried for years, I have always wanted to dedicate it to my grandfather as well as to myself. But I have been lucky to be fighting the best fighters out there. Every fighter wants to fight the best fighters out there and the opportunity to prove themselves and you know winning a world title would be that much better.”

On how much time he has left in the ring, Juarez quickly responded with a laugh, “Until I win a world title.”

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