Juan Diaz Ready For Tomorrow Night But Sick Again

21.11.03 - Carlos "Stiff-jab" Kalinchuk: "This town ain't big enough for the both of us!" Whether it was Clint Eastwood or John Wayne making this comment, this statement often held the premise to most TV westerns for the as long as I can remember. Tomorrow night in Houston Texas, it will be no different. As part of Showtime's Championship Boxing, and one of the most exciting fight cards to come to the Bayou city in some time, hometown products Juan "El Torito" Diaz will be squaring off against fellow Houstonian Joel Perez. Although some will say it's just an opponent for Diaz, make no mistake about it; it's for more than that. It's about proving yourself against a tough fighter, but most importantly, it's for local bragging rights. Who's the toughest Jr. Welterweight in the Bayou City? After Saturday, we'll all know.

While Joel Perez has fought behind the bright lights of most major televised boxing shows (sans his fight against Miguel Cotto), he has fought in relative obscurity while Diaz has received acclaim by the folks at NBC, Showtime Championship Boxing, and Main Events. Can the "Baby Bull" show the older Perez who’s boss? Can the short changed Perez steal Diaz's limelight in front of the Houston fans and for all the boxing world to see? We'll know soon enough.

I caught up with Diaz in Houston while getting ready for his test against Perez. I interviewed him 2 1/2 weeks ago, and as usual, he was sick while training for the fight. Read about what this fight means to him and about his aspirations for the future.

Eastside: I'm not a Dr. but you look sick today bro. How are you feeling? Do you have a cold or something?

Juan Diaz: Yeah man. I…not a cold but Sunday I got the flu and it's been getting me down a little bit. I haven't recovered as well. I mean I'm taking some medicine and getting ready for it but I'm barely getting my strength back man, so I'm doing everything in the ring, not to lose my shape and my strength.

Eastside: From your vantage point, you're not 100%. What percentage of full strength (of health) are you?

Juan Diaz: Right now, I'm about 75% because I'm still sparring. The first day, I went 5 rounds and I was feeling tired but now I can go 5-6 rounds and so it's not a matter of conditioning. It's just getting my strength back and all my energy like I had at the beginning of training camp.

Eastside: Thank God you have enough time to make up for it come fight time. I guess you're what…3 weeks away right?

Juan Diaz: Yeah. I thank God because in my last couple of fights I've been catching a cold the week of the fight…

Eastside: Right.

Juan Diaz: and I don't know what it is about my body but I'm attracting the colds (smiles).

Eastside: (Laughs). I was going to ask you, Joel Perez is a local hometown guy, do you know him outside of the ring?

Juan Diaz: Well, I had forgotten about that time but he brought it up and it came to my attention that a couple of years ago…we sparred together. When I was like 16. I don't remember much about the sparring session, but I used to talk to him and I used to watch him on TV and he used to come here and train sometimes but that was when I was 16; but besides that I never really got to talk to him.

Eastside: Don't you see that as a positive in not having known him too well? Sometimes you see a relationship like Barrera and Tapia, where they were good friends and then the have to fight each other as tougher once you get in the ring. Isn't it better that you didn't know him to some degree?

Juan Diaz: To some degree, it's good that I don't know him that well, but boxing is boxing. You can be friends outside the ring but when you get in the ring…that's another guy who's trying to beat you. You can't take it as if you're friends when you're in the ring.

Eastside: Having considered that he's gotten beaten by Eleazar Contreras twice (and you've already beaten Eleazar Contreras) is this more of a preparation fight for you? I know he's going to come to fight, but what was the plan behind getting this fight in particular?

Juan Diaz: He's a tough opponent. He's been in with Paul Spadafora and Eleazar Contreras and I don't take nothing away from him because they're great fighters. That's going to make me take a step up and to fight a guy, and old veteran (and get more experience). I have to fight more than anything.

Eastside: What do you expect from him in the fight? What do you think he's going to try and do in the ring?

Juan Diaz: He's mentioned that it might be his last fight and seeing that it may be his last fight, I'm sure he's going to train real hard. I'm sure he's going to say, "Hey this is my last fight, and I might as well give it all I got!" And he's going to go in there well prepared-I know it! If he wins, it's my feeling that if it's his last fight…he's going to train hard and if he beats me, he's up there again! So I know he's going to come with everything he's got and well prepared!

Eastside: Not looking too far ahead, but do think there is going to be another fight for you in 2003 or is that is for 2003?

Juan Diaz: I'm not sure. I was scheduled to fight 5 times this year, and I only fought 4, and so I'm not sure Main Events is going to do. You never know, they might put me in a fight next month: After this month…considering that everything goes well.

Eastside: The prospects of some major fights are out there for you with guys like Miguel Cotto. In 2004, where do you see yourself?

Juan Diaz: For 2004, my biggest goal is to finally become Champion of the World because I'm at a point now to where I'm number 5 in the World (ranked number 5) and me and my trainers can't believe that we're ready to face one of the Champions in the Lightweight and Jr. Lightweight Division-so that's my goal for 2004.

Eastside: Any particular guys that you'd like to fight?

Juan Diaz: Before all this thing went down with…Leonard Dorin. I was thinking that maybe I'd like to fight him because we saw him and we thought my style and his style would match up real well. I think it would be a pretty good fight where I would have a good chance of winning. That was the guy I was looking forward to but now with what he did and what happened, now I don't know who!

Eastside: That would have been a fantastic fight for you to have because you guys are very action packed in your styles. Who else do you think would be a good candidate to get in the ring with in 2004?

Juan Diaz: I was seeing him as a good chance of fighting but now it's like Paul Spadafora has his problems and Floyd Mayweather is going up and I know Floyd Mayweather…he's a real real tough guy and I would need a little more experience to be able to go in there with him. But…I'm not sure right now. I haven't really looked towards the guys that are 1st and 2nd place (to fight for the Championship) right now.

Eastside: What did you think about Mayweather's performance against Ndou?

Juan Diaz: I thought he did real well. I know about what everybody says that he's a boxer, but he showed me that he could also be a puncher but that's what he did in his last fight. He took the fight to N'dou, so that shows he's a diverse fighter.

Eastside: I know Acelino Freitas is talking about moving up, what's your take on some of these guys that want to test the waters in the Jr. Welterweight Division?

Juan Diaz: I think that's real good for me. Right now that all these top name fighters are losing their belts for now reason, all these guys are going to come up and that means that there's going to be big names in the Lightweight Division again. So it's not like if I become Champion, people are going to say, "Ahhh, he fought a bum and they ain't the real good fighters!" They go up and I face one of them and I get lucky and beat them, then I'm going to be the man.

Eastside: That's right (smiles).

Eastside: I know Ronnie's been working with you on establishing more of a jab, how's the jab going for you? I know in your last fight with Lorenzo you really didn't get to use it?

Juan Diaz: I mean in the fight with Lorenzo, you really didn't see much of my jab because the guy was throwing overhand rights…

Eastside: And elbow shots right!

Juan Diaz: Yeah! And everything! He was a real awkward fighter and with awkward fighters, all you have to do is fight them! You're not fighting a regular boxer who you know all his techniques. You don't fight a guy like that. You can't fight a guy like that with technique; you just have to fight the guy! Somebody like Lorenzo…in think in this fight with Joel Perez, he's a clean fighter. Not a dirty fighter. He's a veteran and he knows his boxing and I think you're going to see a lot of my jabs in this fight.

Eastside: Thanks a lot Juan. Get to feeling better bro.

Juan Diaz: I will man. I will, and thanks to you to.

Carlos "Stiff-jab" Kalinchuk
Contributing Writer & Photographer

Article posted on 21.11.2003

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