Former WBC lightweight champ David Diaz is proud of his career, of the fact that he fought “two legends – I beat one, I lost to the other.” The blood and guts southpaw who also had the great experience of boxing at The Olympics (Diaz competing as a light-welterweight in 1996) is in fine health today, and busily working in real estate. Diaz also runs a small boxing gym.
Photo: Naoki Fukuda
Diaz finished off with a 36-4-1(17) record and he ruled as WBC 135 pound champ from 2007 to 2008. Diaz’ epic wars with Erik Morales (legend number-one) and Manny Pacquiao (legend number-two) thrilled millions of fans. Diaz, now aged 45, kindly took the time to speak with ESB this week.
Q: It’s great to be able to speak with you again, champ. It’s coming up 15 years from when you beat Jose Santa Cruz to become WBC interim champ at lightweight, on August 12, 2006.
David Diaz: “Yeah, you know, it’s started to dawn on me how it was quite a while ago. You know, it’s part of it – we’re getting up there [in age].”
Q: That win of course led to two massive fights for you – against Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao. Two great action fights. When you’re in a red-hot action fight like that, are you fully aware of how exciting the fight is or are you simply focused on the business of winning?
D.D: “At the time, for the Morales fight, I knew the task at hand. I knew I had to go all-out and just whatever happens, happens. I knew I’d give it my all. I knew we were in a war but all I was really thinking was how I had to keep pressing forward and I’d be okay. That was a fight where I knew I had to accomplish something and you go out and do it. In winning that fight I did accomplish something, something I never dreamed of, actually.”
Q: After you beat Santa Cruz, you had a year out of the ring, before you fought Morales. What was the reason?
D.D: “That I don’t know. I really wish we had had some fights but I think it was from a promotional standpoint, that they were not giving me anything. With a fight in [before facing Morales], it could have made all the difference. At that time, I wasn’t sure what was going through my mind. It was like, ‘Okay, I’m champion, now what?’ But yeah, we should have had at least one fight in-between [Santa Cruz and Morales] but it just never happened.”
Q: You got a lot of credit for the win over Morales of course, but at that time there were concerns for Morales, fighting a young warrior like yourself after he’d already had so many wars.
D.D: “It’s never my intention to hurt anyone, just to win. If a clean knockout comes, you always assume that person will get up after. It’s never my intention to damage anyone, not at all. Against Morales, I felt that if I put the pressure on maybe he’d stop, but he still had some fight in him. He came to fight that night.”
Q: “Were you surprised Morales fought on after you beat him, even getting in there with Marcos Maidana?
D.D: “It just shows you his true grit of being a champion, you know. And that’s exactly what I fought, a guy who was champion before and was coming to be champion again. But that night, the stars and everything aligned for me.”
Q: Was the Morales fight you at your very best?
D.D: “I think it was the most climatic fight that I had, after being knocked down in the first round then coming back and going all-out in a war. I think it was a great Rocky Balboa-type fight (laughs). For me, it was a great victory.”
Q: What are your memories of your fight with Emanuel Augustus, from early 2004?
D.D: “Yes, he was a great fighter. We all knew, if you beat Emanuel Augustus, you’re on your way. He was like the gate-keeper; If you could beat him, you were on your way to winning something big or to getting a shot at something big. We were prepared for the things he did in some of his fights, where he would dance around and do certain things. But we never got that, so I think in that fight he took me seriously. I was like, ‘Okay, so I’ve made it. I’ve made it past this guy.’ He didn’t do any of the things that he did in the ring when he doesn’t respect the fighter. So, I felt good with that decision victory over him.”
Q: What went wrong in the Kendall Holt fight, with you being stopped in the eighth round in 2005?
D.D: “Oh, go back and watch that fight! Oh, man, that was a bad stoppage. No way should they have stopped it. I had dropped him and was coming back and starting to put the pressure on to put him away. I felt that was an unnecessary stoppage. He caught me with a right hand but it wasn’t like a devastating right hand. That’s just how it goes sometimes, man.”
Q: You did something quite old-school after the win over Morales, in that you had a non-title fight, with you beating Ramon Montano over 10 rounds in March of 2008.
D.D: “We were trying to get that Manny Pacquiao fight, that’s what it was. We were trying to secure that Pacquiao fight.”
Q: Was Pacquiao the guy you always wanted? You were sure you could beat him?
D.D: “Of course. There’s no point being a fighter if you don’t think you can’t beat someone. You have no business in the game if you’re protecting that zero. You gotta take those risks. Champions and great fighters, they take those risks. But I always felt that I could beat Manny. I was like, ‘Yeah, I can beat him!’ But it was what it was. Yes, I fought a fight that played into his type of style of fighting, where he stuck and moved, I bought into that, because I wanted to show that I could knock him out.”
Q: Why were you so sure you could beat him, primarily because you felt he was too small for you?
D.D: “Exactly that what you just said. He was a 130-pounder, coming up. I was like, ‘Man, I’m a 135 guy.’ I was walking around at 145 at the time. I felt I was the bigger guy and the stronger guy. I knew I could beat him (laughs). But it came down to his speed. Even though he knocked me out, and I always say this – his punches were not that strong. I didn’t feel them as, like, ‘Ooh, heavy.’ He wasn’t like a heavy-handed guy. Morales was far more the heavier-handed guy. But what I did feel was the speed. [He threw] so many punches, from so many angles. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’”
Q: As you know, Pacquiao has the big fight with Errol Spence coming up. Are you surprised he’s still doing it at age 42, and do you give him a shot against Spence?
D.D: “For me, after my fight with Hank Lundy (a 6th round KO loss in August of 2011), I knew I was done. The love just wasn’t there any more. My kids were growing up, too, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen. It was time to walk away. I think I did pretty good in my career. I have no regrets. But no, I’m not surprised Manny’s still fighting. You have to give Manny a shot. Yes, Spence is bigger but Manny has fought bigger than him. I actually give Manny a little bit the edge over Spence, I think his in-and-out [style] and his quickness is still gonna help him.”
Q: It’s an interesting fight. Would you be open to coming back for an exhibition bout? Marco Antonio Barrera has had one, with Jesus Soto Karass, and he’s older than you!
D.D: Maybe, if it’s an exhibition with 16-oz gloves (laughs) – not the 10-oz gloves though! No, I don’t have the itch to come back the way these guys do, but if it’s an exhibition, I guess I have no problem with it. I loved fighting; I really did. But I wanted to get out at the right time. I’m happy I was able to do it as long as I did, with my father with me. My father actually passed away this past Thursday, so next week we take him back to Mexico, to his resting spot, with my mother who is buried there. I was blessed to have had my father with me for such a long time. I know he was proud of me.”