CHICAGO -- David Diaz said no. Hell no! Under absolutely no circumstances was the boxer and lifelong Cubs fan comfortable with the idea of using a billy goat to promote the biggest fight of his life.
But his opinion didn't matter. And so one day this past June, on a podium at Santa Monica Pier in California, there sat Diaz, five days before his lightweight championship bout with Manny Pacquiao, seething as promoter Bob Arum began a prefight news conference by doing exactly the opposite of what Diaz had asked -- trotting out a goat in a Cubs hat.
The instant he saw the animal, Diaz grabbed his father and walked off the stage. "People were laughing," Diaz says. "They thought it was funny. They thought I was scared of the goat. But it had nothing to do with that. I just wasn't going to subject myself or the Cubs to some stupid publicity stunt. You don't mess with my Cubs. I just won't stand for that."
After Diaz bolted, Arum, with the goat by his side, went on to tell the tale of the famed Billy Goat Curse. After the Cubs refused to allow a restaurant owner and his goat admission to the 1945 World Series, Arum explained, the restaurant owner vowed the Cubs would never play in another World Series. To date, they haven't. But if Diaz could beat Pacquiao, Arum proclaimed, he could single-handedly lift the 63-year-old curse and send the Cubs to the 2008 World Series.
For Diaz, a kid who grew up on Chicago's North Side idolizing red-haired catcher Jody Davis and living through the postseason heartbreaks of '84, '89, '98 and '03, the stunt was a nightmare. "I didn't want to be the next Bartman," Diaz says. "I couldn't stop worrying that if the Cubs started tanking after this, they were going to blame me."
After Arum's rant came to an end, the billy goat was removed and a flustered Diaz returned to the dais. Five days later, the Cubs would lose to the rival White Sox 6-5. And that night, Diaz would lose to Pacquiao by a ninth-round knockout. "It's a little weird," Diaz says. "I watch the Cubs on the days that I fight and, if they win, I get that charge of, 'I am going to do all right. I am going to win.' And if they lose, I get a little nervous. That night, the Cubs lost and I lost my belt."
If there needs to be more proof of how much the team means to 32-year-old Diaz, a three-time national Golden Gloves champion who is 34-2-1 as a professional, there's his admission that if given the choice to regain his championship belt or see the Cubs win a World Series, he'd choose the latter.
"Hands down," Diaz says, "because there is so much more meaning behind it. Boxing championships are part of my job, part of what I do. I like it and enjoy it. But if I could get paid to watch the Cubs or be around the Cubs, sign me up. I would get them towels or water or anything like that."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.