by James Slater: Ronnie Shields is one of the finest trainers in the sport of boxing today. Currently getting ‘world’ lightweight champion Juan Diaz ready for his fight with veteran Nate Campbell, Shields – who is now reunited with “The Baby Bull” after a temporary parting that lasted a few months – has also worked with greats like Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. Speaking to me over the phone from his gym in Texas, Shields spoke about Diaz’s upcoming fight on March 8th, possible future opponents for the unbeaten lightweight king and what “The Real Deal” should do now..
I began by asking Ronnie about Diaz’s preparations for his fight with Nate Campbell.
Q: Firstly, who has Juan been sparring with?
R.S: He’s been having great sparring. He always works very hard and is always in top shape for a fight. I don’t think you’ll have heard of any of the guys he’s been working with, they’re not big names that are known to the fans, but they’ve been giving Juan great work, which is the important thing.
Q: And now that you’re back with Juan, is everything clicking and are the two of you getting on fine?
R.S: Of course. We are back together now, I only missed one fight with Juan, and we’re getting on great. I always try and get on well with anybody. So, yes, everything is fine.
Q: Nate Campbell is a good fighter, how do you rate him as a challenger for Diaz?
R.S: Well, Nate’s been around for a long time. He’s always dangerous and he says he’s going to be bringing the fight right to Juan. But Juan is ready for him if he tries to do that. Nate says he will be right in the centre of the ring, and that will suit Juan Diaz fine. I think this fight will be the fight of the night on march 8th. Juan always looks to have the fight of the night, that’s just in his nature, to put on great fights, and I’m sure it will be a great fight on March 8th.
Q: Campbell has quite a reach advantage over Diaz ( at 72″ to 67″), do you see any problems there?
R.S: Not at all. Like Nate himself says, the fight will be fought mid-ring, so I don’t really think reach will come into it all that much. I mean, Juan Diaz never takes any opponent lightly, and he is training hard for Nate Campbell. We’ve sat down and watched tapes of Campbell, to study his mistakes, and Juan will know how to capitalise on them.
Q: Talking about mistakes, what do you think of the Robbie Peden fight, where Campbell dropped his hands and got himself KO’d! Do you think he’ll be crazy enough to do anything like that against Diaz?
R.S: (chuckles) I don’t think Nate Campbell will ever do anything that crazy again in his entire life. I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t funny when it happened, but Nate just gave the Peden a free shot at his chin and basically said, “here, my hands are down, try and knock me out.” I’ve known Robbie for a long time and I knew how tough he was. I don’t think Nate will drop his hands like that against Juan, no way.
Q: The losses to Peden mark the only time Campbell has been stopped. Is Juan looking to score a KO over him?
R.S: We never train and enter a fight looking for the KO. That way, if you don’t get one, you don’t feel like you’ve failed. Also, Juan is always ready to go the full 12 rounds if he has to. Of course, he’d like to score a KO, like any fighter would like to. Nobody wants to go 12 rounds if they don’t have to. Wanting to Score a KO is also in Juan’s nature, but he always makes sure he is in shape to go the distance if need be. Just as long as we get the win on March 8th, that’s the most important thing – it’s not necessary to score a KO. Then it’s on to the next fight.
Q: Talking about future fights, are there any big names Juan talks to you about wanting to fight?
R.S: Well, we take each fight one at a time, and right now we are only looking at Nate Campbell. But of course, between fights Juan talks about who he’d like to fight in the future. Manny Pacquiao is a guy Juan would love to fight, but I don’t think that fight will come around any time soon. So, for now, we have to look at Nate Campbell. But there are a lot of good fights out there for Juan after March 8th. The winner of Michael Katsidis and Joel Casamayor is another fight he wants.
Q: In your expert opinion, who wins that fight between Katsidis and Casamayor, also, who wins in Pacquiao-Marquez II?
R.S: I really think Marquez will give Manny lots of problems. I like Marquez in the fight actually. He was knocked down three times by Manny in the first fight, yet came back and boxed and almost won – that’s a very hard thing to do. This time, I don’t think Manny will be able to do that to him [knock him down so many times, so early in the fight] and I think Marquez will win it on points. As for Katsidis-Casamayor, Casamayor looked absolutely terrible in his last fight [Vs. Santa Cruz]. I don’t know what the judges were watching for them to have scored that as a win for him. There’s no way Casamayor won that fight, there’s just no way. So based on how bad he looked last time out, I give Katsidis a good shot at stopping him.
Q: Those winners sure would be great and mouth-watering opponents for Diaz. But first he has to get past Campbell. Does Juan have a final prediction for the fight?
R.S: Juan is really on top of his game right now. He doesn’t make predictions, other than he will get the win. But as I say, it’s in his nature to try and score a knockout. Juan Diaz will definitely be victorious on March 8th.
Q: Moving on, can I ask you about Evander Holyfield? I know you two have parted company now, what are your feelings about Evander, should he really hang up the gloves now?
R.S: ( with a quite sombre tone to his previously upbeat demeanour) Really, I think he should. The thing is, I don’t want to see him get hurt. I really thought he could beat Sultan Ibragimov, I really did. But he didn’t win and I really don’t know why. Evander didn’t do what we’d worked on in the gym, he didn’t take the fight to Ibragimov and he didn’t let his hands go – he didn’t throw enough punches. And when you can’t throw enough punches in a fight, it’s a sign that you should be getting out of the game.
I tell you honestly, if Evander had been in with Klitschko the night he fought Ibragimov, he’d have been KO’d, he really would have been. And now, if Evander wants to carry on, he has to get back in line. But it’s a very long line, with a lot of young and hungry heavyweights waiting for their shot. Evander has had his time, he has nothing to prove and he’ll always be the heavyweight champion to whoever sees him in public. He was a four-time heavyweight champion – something that’s never bee done before – and he has nothing more to prove. Evander had one of the greatest careers ever. If he carries on, it’s going to be very hard, and if he loses again – then what?