Jesus Chavez vs Julio Diaz

22.01.07 - In a sensational televised co-feature on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING (Feb. 3 beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast), IBF Lightweight Champion Jesus Chavez (42-3, 29 KOs) will defend his title against IBF interim champion Julio Diaz (33-3, 24 KOs). Boxing pundits and critics alike expect both the world title fights to be two of the most action-packed contests in recent memory. “Chavez versus Diaz is a very good stylistic match-up,” said SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein. “Both fighters are active and skilled, which adds up to a match filled with plenty of action for several rounds.” ..

Chavez, of Austin, Texas, will make his first start since he won the IBF lightweight belt in a bout against Leavander Johnson that ended in tragedy on Sept. 17, 2005. Five days after Chavez captured his second world title when the one-sided bout was stopped 38 seconds into the 11th round, Johnson, who was 35, died from a brain injury.

When he returns to the ring against Diaz, Chavez will be fighting for more than himself.

“Leavander was a true warrior with a tremendous heart,” Chavez said. “Every day I think of him and say a prayer for him and his family. He will never be forgotten.”

In the aftermath of the Johnson tragedy, Chavez has had plenty to say about how to improve health and safety in his sport. He advocates brain scans for all boxers who participate in title bouts. He also would like independent monitors showing up at sparring sessions to ensure boxers are not entering the ring with injuries. In addition, Chavez believes that weigh-ins should remain a day before the fight to give fighters time to recover from the process of making weight.

A two-time world champion, Chavez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, but spent most of his life in the United States. He suffered his first loss in his fifth pro start when he dropped a six-round nod to Carlos Gerena. He avenged the setback eight years later by stopping the tough Puerto Rican in six rounds. His other losses were to future Hall Of Famers Floyd Mayweather and Erik Morales.

In both the Mayweather and Morales matches, Chavez fought gallantly and courageously. Versus Mayweather, in a thriller on Nov. 10, 2001, in San Francisco, Chavez lost by ninth-round TKO to the then-WBC 130-pound champ. But the determined challenger constantly pressed forward and won over the crowd before running out of gas.

“I gave the best fighter in the world the best fight he’s had,” Chavez said. “I learned a lot from the fight. I'm a smarter fighter because of it.”

Chavez capitalized on the experience and won the WBC title with a decisive points victory over previously unbeaten Sirimongkol Singmanassak (43-0 going in) on Aug. 15. Then, in his first world-title defense, Chavez lost a unanimous decision in a hard fought battle with world-renowned Morales.

“It's been a struggle for me all my life,” Chavez said, after winning his first title. “But winning that title fight made me the happiest man. Winning in front of my fans is the greatest feeling in the world, my dream come true.”

In March 2004, Chavez had surgery to reattach tendons in his right shoulder. He re-injured the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in the 12-round loss to Morales on Feb. 28, 2004. Cut over the left eye and dropped twice in the second, he gave a valiant effort despite fighting the last 10 rounds mainly with his left hand.

Besides having to persevere through injuries to both shoulders and having one of the most treasured moments in his life turn into the ultimate sadness, Chavez also had to overcome well-documented troubles he got into as a teenager. In a 2001 documentary, filmmaker Marcy Garriott chronicles the life of Chavez in the ultimate comeback story: “Split Decision.”

“I am living the American dream,” he said.

At 17, Chavez helped a friend rob a grocery store in Chicago. Both were arrested, convicted and sent to two of the toughest maximum-security prisons in Illinois. After his release three-and-a-half years later, Chavez was deported to Mexico, according to numerous accounts in the Austin Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and other media outlets.

Then, in the early 1990s, Chavez snuck back across the border to Austin where he turned pro and lived illegally for three years.

However, the INS caught up with him. In 1996, Congress passed two laws which required immigrants who committed a crime to be immediately deported. So, when Chavez was caught when he applied for a driver’s license, he was deported again and lived with his grandparents for three years in Mexico.

Chavez had nine fights in Mexico and one in Poland before he was able to legally return to the U.S. in November 2000 when the INS granted him a non-immigrant visa. On Feb. 8, 2001, he got his permanent resident status.

Outside the ring, Chavez is a humble, quiet man who knows the value of respect and hope. Getting a green card and becoming a full citizen of the U.S. was a long-time coming, but well worth the wait.
“It was a big relief,” he told the Austin Chronicle. “My only regret was being involved in the robbery. Everything comes from that. I learned the hard way, but I learned. I paid my time. It was not easy coming back from that, like being deported, but it was an experience.’’

The 34-year-old Chavez is managed by Richard Lord and co-trained by Lord and Fernando Castrejon.

Diaz, of Coachella, Calif., will attempt to capture outright the IBF 135-pound title for a second time. He won it previously with a 12-round majority decision (118-110 twice and 114 apiece) over defending champion Javier Jauregui on May 13, 2004, in San Diego.

“Winning a world title had been my dream since I was six years old,” the popular, exciting Diaz said. “My family suffered a lot for this. I was the last hope to win a world title. I had to do it. I did it for my family.’’

Unable to capitalize on winning the IBF title because of several postponements, Diaz voluntarily relinquished his belt for a shot at WBC counterpart, Jose Luis Castillo, March 5, 2005, on SHOWTIME.

In a totally unexpected performance, however, the switch-hitting Diaz could not get into a rhythm, showed the more experienced Castillo too much respect and lost by 10th-round TKO. Diaz showed plenty of courage, but got dropped twice in the 10th and both his eyes were badly swollen at the bout’s conclusion.

“I was bothered by a headbutt and lost vision in my left eye,’’ Diaz said. “I couldn’t see all the punches coming in. (But) I’m young and I have a lot of time. This is just one loss. I’ll be back.”

Despite his optimism, a defeat like this could have meant disaster career-wise for many boxers. Not so for Diaz, who is no stranger to adversity.

In 2000, Diaz was named “Prospect of the Year” in USA Today. By 2001, he had become one of boxing's top young contenders with many observers considering the then-21-year-old the best fighter in the lightweight division and the most promising young fighters at any weight.

Diaz seemed to be on a fast track to stardom. But he came up on the wrong end of a 12-round split decision to Angel Manfredy in October 2001. Then, six months later, Diaz was knocked out in the first round by Juan Valenzuela.

After losing to Castillo, Diaz scored two spectacular one-punch, first-round knockouts.

In his last outing, Diaz won the IBF interim 135-pound title with a 12-round decision (120-108, 119-109 and 118-110) over Ricky Quiles on May 18, 2006, in Hollywood, Fla. Diaz stamped his authority on the proceedings from the start and never let his foe get into the fight.

Diaz got the interim title bout when Chavez tore ligaments in his shoulder. Chavez told the IBF in March 2006 that he expected the injury to sideline him six-to-nine months, so the council scheduled an interim title bout between Diaz and Quiles, with Chavez promising the winner a shot at his title.

The victory over Quiles was the third in a row for the five-foot-nine, 27-year-old Diaz, whose Sycuan Ringside Promotions stablemates include undefeated WBO Junior Lightweight Champion Joan Guzman, WBC Super Bantamweight Champion Israel Vazquez and World Boxing Association Super Bantamweight Champion Celestino Caballero.

Diaz, who was born and raised in California, hails from a boxing family. Three older brothers boxed professionally, including current welterweight contender Antonio Diaz.

Shortly after a prolific amateur career in which he went 185-15, Diaz turned pro at the age 19 on Feb. 6, 1999. He is managed by Roger Snellenberger and trained by Lee Espinosa.

Tickets, priced at $27, $52, $102, $202, and a limited number of $502 Golden Ringside seats, are on sale now and can be purchased in person at the Silver Spurs Arena box office M-F from 10AM to 4PM; by calling (407) 839-3900; by logging on to, or at any TicketMaster outlet. The event is being promoted by Don King Productions, with the main event presented in association with Gary Shaw Productions, LLC.

Article posted on 23.01.2007

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