September 5, 2008

Juan Diaz: Making all the “right” decisions, no bull

By El Gran Campeon

Upon hearing about the tragic death that took the life of former San Diego Chargers strong safety, Terrence Kiel on July 4th, there was only one thought going through my head, “So much wasted talent.” Here was a young man, 27 years old, who at one point in his career was one game away from playing on the biggest stage in sports, “The Super Bowl.”

A 2003 second round draft pick out of Texas A&M University, Kiel had his whole life ahead of him, but with a couple of bad decisions here and there, he is gone. Perhaps, the saddest thing is the way in which the local media portrayed his death. Instead of remembering him as a hard hitting player who helped his team win two division titles, they tell the story of a troubled young man who made a bunch of bad decisions.

Bad decisions and young athletes are synonymous with one another in today’s society. It seems as though all the media attention and focus is always on these troubled young stars, meanwhile the athletes that do well, and make the right decisions somehow slip through the cracks without ever getting praise or noticed by the media.

Allow me to introduce you to 24 year old Mexican-American boxer, Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz. At 24, Diaz (33-1-17 KOs) has managed to accomplish an array of amazing things in his young life. After an impressive amateur career in which he accumulated a record of 105-5, Juan thought he had qualified for the boxing team representing Mexico in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

To his dismay, Juan would be too young to join the Sydney team, and at age 16, decided to try his hand at a pro career. Diaz would go on to win his first five pro fights by way of knock-out. His current 33-1 record is impressive, to say the least. However, his accomplishments do not end there.

Diaz has proven to be a force in the lightweight division, he recently held the WBA, WBO, and IBF tiles, before losing them this past March. His wins over Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz (no relation) impressive, no doubt. Perhaps the astounding and admirable feat of them all is the fact that he has been doing all this while maintaining a 3.0 G.P.A. at The University of Houston.

While all boxing fans are looking forward to his highly anticipated clash tomorrow night against fellow heavy hitter, Michael Katsidis 23-1-20 KOs (a fight that is already being talked about as a possible candidate for fight of the year), Juan will have another date in a mind. A date in May of next year when he fulfills a lifelong dream he made to his parents by receiving a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Juan credits his parents Fidencio, and Olivia, for stressing the importance of an education to him at an early age. Coming to this country as immigrants Florencio and Olivia have overcome the trials and tribulations, such as language barriers, anti- Mexican sentiment and everything else associated with being a “Mexican” immigrant. They know the value of hard work, and they have instilled that ethic in Juan. They have always pushed him to become something of himself, and boy has he. Juan is highly regarded as one of the top fighters in a lightweight division that is home of top pound for pound fighters, Manny Pacquiao, and Juan Manuel Marquez. The Everlast boxing company has even come out with a line of t-shirts inspired by the “Baby Bull.”

In a series of great decisions, Diaz recently signed with Golden Boy Promotions. After a very public battle with his previous promoter Don King, Diaz sees himself in good hands with a promoter in Oscar De La Hoya, who will get him the big fights and showcase his exciting style of fighting to the fullest.

Although, it may be hard to imagine, Juan is a regular 24 year –old despite all of his success. He hangs out with friends, listens to rap music and checks up on the latest comments on his My Space page. I think it’s safe to say that you won’t be seeing Diaz throwing out wads of fake hundred dollar bills in a club ala Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr., or being convicted of a crime and standing on trial ala “Iron” Mike Tyson. Diaz knows that making the wrong decisions will only derail his ultimate dream, which is to become Mayor of Houston.

Unwilling to end up like so many fighters before him that don’t know when to walk away from the sport, Diaz is planning on walking away from boxing in a couple of years to make way for his dream, and he is already taking steps to get there.

Diaz splits his time volunteering at the Registrar of Voters in Harris County and at The League Of Women Voters in his hometown of Houston, all this while also being a community activist. At 24, at an age when so many people are undecided as to what path to take in their lives, Diaz already knows where he’s been and where he is going in life. Whether it’s in the classroom maintaining a 3.0 GPA, in the ring schooling opponents, or as Houston’s future Mayor, Diaz keeps charging along life like a “Raging Bull.”

El Gran Chisme

If you only watch one fight the rest of the year..

Make sure it’s tomorrow night’s match up between Diaz and Katsidis. Both fighters are coming off loses and need this win to stay in contention for another shot at glory. You won’t regret it, both fighters are offensive minded, action fighters. There will be blood. Make sure you tune in for the under card as well that pits former Olympic silver medalist Rocky Juarez (27-4-19 KOs) against the always dangerous Jorge Barrios (47-3-34 KOs) this promises to be an entertaining bout. The fights will be shown live from Diaz’s hometown of Houston and will be televised on HBO at 7:15pm our time.

Pacquiao in town to promote Mexico vs. Philippines card

Pound for pound king and Oscar De La Hoya’s next opponent Manny Pacquiao will be at Sycuan Casino on Thursday, September 25th. Pacquiao will be in town promoting a team of Filipino boxers that will take on a team from Mexico. I hope Pacquiao’s appearance will not take eyes away from 20 year old boxing phenom Bernabe Concepcion. Bernabe who is guided by trainer Freddie Roach will be headlining the card. Concepcion was last seen dismantling his opponent in three rounds on the under card of Cotto vs. Margarito. This kid is one to watch.

Marco Antonio Barrera is down with the King

When legendary fighter Marco Antonio Barrera left Golden Boy Promotions a few months ago, we were told that Barrera left to start his own promotional company. Soon after there were rumblings saying that the real reason was that Barrera was unhappy that GBP had not lined up any fights for him. Those rumblings became reality when ESPN’s Dan Rafael broke the news that Barrera had signed a 5 year promotional deal with Don King. Barrera would like to keep fighting, to become the first Mexican to win four world titles, in four different weight classes.

Mijares keeps rolling,

King of the Jr. Bantamweights, Mexicano Christian Mijares made easy work of his opponent Chatchau Sasakul last Saturday night. Mijares hardly broke a sweat knocking out the fighter from Thailand in three rounds.

“The Nightmare” coming to S.D?

Mexican Heavyweight Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola will take on Puerto Rican Israel “King Kong” Garcia (19-1-11KOs) on September 25th. If all goes well for Arreola in that fight, his promoter Dan Goosen is thinking of putting together a card that would bring Arreola to San Diego along with WBO welterweight champion Paul Williams. If that happens, hopefully baseball season is over, I would hate to decide on what “nightmare” to see Chris Arreola or the San Diego Padres.

Bojorquez, Garcia kick off Mexican Independence Day at 4th&B

Rising star, “El Consentido de Tijuana” Emilio Bojorquez, and local fighter Aaron Garcia headline a night of boxing on September 11th at the 4th&B. 20 year old super featherweight Bojorquez, (10-1-8 KOs) recently told La Prensa “I have been working very hard in training in preparation for the fight. I want to put on a great fight for all the San Diego fans. I have been enjoying my fights on this side of the border and do not want to disappoint.” When asked about his future plans Bojorquez stated “I am ready to step up in competition and fight anybody that my team puts in front of me.” Don’t miss your chance to see this local knock-out artist.

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