Juan Diaz bullish on return, title hopes
The "Baby Bull" is back, or so Juan Diaz hopes.
Diaz, the former unified lightweight titleholder known for all-action fights, came to Las Vegas in April to attend the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales fight and declared to a gathering of press members that he would be returning to the ring this summer.
Now Diaz has made it official, signing on for a one-fight deal with promoter Warriors Boxing to face David Torres in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on July 29. The fight will headline ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
Opening the telecast will be Joel Casamayor (38-5-1, 22 KOs), another former lightweight titlist, against Jorge Teron (25-2-1, 17 KOs).
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Diaz will be returning just two days shy of one year since his last fight, in which he lost a clear decision to lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas in an HBO PPV main event.
It was Diaz's second loss to Marquez, who knocked him out in the ninth round of their first meeting in the 2009 Fight of the Year. Losing to Marquez for the second time dropped Diaz to 2-4 in his last six fights -- and one of the victories, against Paulie Malignaggi in their first fight, came on a highly controversial decision.
But after a year off, Diaz said he feels refreshed and ready to make another title run.
"It's been awhile, and I am very excited and very pumped about being back in the ring," said Diaz, who has stayed busy in his native Houston running a trucking and construction business with his younger brother, Jose. "Last time I fought was July 31 last year, so it's going to be a year. So I'm looking forward to fighting again and showing people what I still have."
Diaz was accepted recently to law school, a goal he has talked about for years. He still wants to attend, he said, but hopes to defer his acceptance to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law School for a year to see what else he can accomplish in boxing.
"I have the acceptance letter from law school and I look at it every day and question myself every day if I am making the right decision," Diaz said. "I put it to the side and say law school can wait. What I really want is to become champion again, so I've been emailing back and forth with the university to see if I can work something out where they will let me defer for a year, because I don't think I want to go yet.
"I want to put another year or so into boxing, become world champion again, retire as champion and then go to law school."
The odds are probably against Diaz, who is an old 27 after all the grinding, high-contact slugfests he has been involved in.
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"I don't feel old at all," Diaz insisted. "I get a lot of questions from people who think, as a veteran fighter, I must be, like, 33 years old or something. I'm only 27. There are guys barely challenging for world titles at that age, and I have already [won three major belts]. I think my best is right around the corner. I don't feel like a spring chicken, but I feel like I have a lot left in the tank."
Diaz was 20 when he claimed his first world title in 2004. He made seven defenses, including unifying three major belts with wins against titleholders Acelino "Popo" Freitas and Julio Diaz.
Juan Diaz's rough patch began in his next fight, when he lost a decision in an upset by Nate Campbell in March 2008.
"Juan wants to come back and recapture old glory," said Willie Savannah, Diaz's manager. "He wants to come back and see if he can recapture what he used to have. He wants to win a world title again. Juan seems to have the fire back. He's been training for three or four months and now he will get into training to get ready for a fight. If the fight was at the end of June, he would be ready."
Diaz is familiar with Torres (21-2-2, 13 KOs), 33, because they have sparred.
"I sparred with him a few times in the past and he's one of those guys who is real aggressive and has some good power to him," Diaz said. "He knows my strengths and weaknesses, just like I do his."
Diaz's promotional deal with Golden Boy ran out, and he said he would like to work with the company again in the future, but he accepted the Warriors offer because it allowed him to be on ESPN2 in front of a lot of viewers.
"I believe doing this with Warriors is a good opportunity and it's a good date on a good network, and that can only help me and put me in line for a future title shot," Diaz said. "The 'Baby Bull' is back. Boxing is still in my heart, still in my blood."
De La Hoya making amends?
Oscar De La Hoya, whose recent entrance into a California rehabilitation clinic was disclosed May 21, is apparently still in the treatment center but has taken to Twitter to try to publicly mend fences with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
"Dear bob arum first I would like to humbly apologize for any pain I have caused to you and your family," De La Hoya tweeted on his verified @oscardelahoya account Thursday. "I also want to apologize to manny paquiao for any wrong doing in my part. you are a great champion. I have realized that by accepting my mistakes everyone around me will hopefully forgive me. with great humility I ask we work together for the good of the sport we dearly love. It is not fair to the fans and to the fighters. so today let's move forward and put on the best fights possible and show the world what we are capable of doing. Thank you bob. your friend oscar."
Arum, of course, promoted De La Hoya for most of his career, during which the fighter won 10 world titles in six weight classes and became the biggest star in boxing. However, they had a bad falling out, and now De La Hoya has his Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank's bitter rival.
The feud has grown in recent years amid their battle over the promotional rights to Pacquiao, who sent De La Hoya into retirement after he pounded him into submission in eight lopsided rounds in 2008. Pacquiao is suing De La Hoya, others at his company and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for defamation because they allegedly accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Arum told ESPN.com earlier this month that he would never do a fight with Golden Boy again unless there was a "heartfelt public apology for defaming Manny." Although Arum had not read De La Hoya's tweets, he said his office told him about them and he said he was appreciative.
"It's an apology and I'm grateful," Arum told ESPN.com. "I'm sure it's sincere. It is what it is. Obviously, I appreciate it."
DeGale desperate for rematch with Groves
After super middleweight James DeGale, the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, suffered his first career defeat against bitter rival George Groves via majority decision last Saturday, he called for an immediate rematch. But DeGale won't get one.
How can a challenger nick a fight on the back foot like that? I thought I hit him with the cleaner shots, I hurt him in the ninth round, and the last four rounds I won easy. He can't be proud of that win.” -- Super middleweight James DeGale, on losing to rival George Groves
Frank Warren, DeGale's promoter, reached out to the British boxing board to ask if it would order a sequel of their British and Commonwealth title bout, but the overtures were rejected. The board simply judged the result as a close fight and saw no overwhelming reason to order another one right away.
Groves, who also defeated DeGale in an amateur meeting, won the tactical fight by a single point on two scorecards, while another judge had it a draw -- 115-115, 115-114, 115-114.
"How can a challenger nick a fight on the back foot like that?" DeGale said, referring to Groves' fighting style. "I thought I hit him with the cleaner shots, I hurt him in the ninth round, and the last four rounds I won easy. He can't be proud of that win. He beat me, but he nicked it. I want a rematch as soon as [I can get one]."
Said Warren: "The general consensus seems to be that James won the fight, so they should order a rematch. I don't think George's team will be interested, but there's no one else for him. It should happen straight away. One way or another, that fight will happen again. If it doesn't happen, George Groves should be ashamed of himself. I'm sure he wants his victory to be an emphatic one."
Burns to defend against Cook
Junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns (31-2, 8 KOs) of Scotland now has an opponent for his third defense on July 16 in Liverpool, England: former titleholder Nicky Cook of England.
"I've not had a defense against a domestic opponent yet, so I am relishing this one," said Burns, who outpointed Roman Martinez to win his title in September 2010 and has made defenses against opponents from Ghana and Colombia. "Nicky has always been a fighter I have admired over the years and he's a good fighter, and he we will be really up for getting his old title back on the night. But I will raise my game and deliver my first stoppage win as a champion. There's always something special in the air when England and Scotland clash, and this fight will be no different. Nicky wants his title back, but even if he produces the performance of a lifetime, he won't beat me."
Cook (30-2, 16 KOs) lost his belt in March 2009, when Martinez knocked him out in the fourth round in Manchester, England. After a 26-month layoff, Cook returned on May 21 to score a six-round decision win against Youssef Al Hamidi on the Groves-DeGale undercard. Promoter Warren offered him the title opportunity a few days later.
"I'm still hurting from that night," Cook said of title loss to Martinez. "The only way to heal the pain is to beat Ricky Burns. I felt I had the better of Martinez, but I got sloppy and I got punished. But I won't make the same mistake again. Burns has done well as champion, but believe me, I'm going in their all guns blazing to win back my old belt. I beat a Scotsman in Alex Arthur to win the title, and I'll beat another one to get it back."
Gesta signs with Top Rank
Filipino lightweight Mercito Gesta, who is based in San Diego and has put on several exciting performances on Telefutura, signed Wednesday with Arum's Top Rank. Gesta (21-0-1, 11 KOs) is just 23 but has been a pro since 2003. He will make his Top Rank debut against an opponent to be determined at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on July 9 on the undercard of the Showtime card headlined by lightweight titlist Brandon Rios' first defense against Urbano Antillon. Gesta signed a four-year deal, according to Top Rank's Carl Moretti.
"He's past the prospect stage, but he needs step-up competition," Moretti said. "I don't know how he does with the solid lightweights, so we will find out. He has a very fan- and TV-friendly style, plus a growing fan base in California. We will determine how fast we move him based on what we see in the ring."
In the previously announced televised co-feature, junior middleweight Kermit Cintron will end a one-year layoff when he faces Carlos Molina. Top Rank has also added middleweight prospect Matvey Korobov (15-0, 9 KOs), the 2008 Russian Olympian, and light heavyweight prospect and Notre Dame graduate Mike Lee (5-0, 3 KOs) to the undercard.
Martin goes for 50th
Christy Martin's wait to attempt to win her 50th professional fight is nearly over. Martin's rematch of her September 2009 win against Dakota Stone -- the last fight for both women -- is set to take place June 4 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on the Sebastian Zbik-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard.
"First time I have ever fought in California," Martin said. "I am going for my 50th win, which is exciting. I have been on a lot of big cards with Julio Cesar Chavez [Sr.] and now I am on a Chavez Jr. world title card. It's amazing, when you think of it."
Martin and Stone were supposed to meet on March 12 on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard. However, Martin (49-5-3, 31 KOs) suffered a cracked rib in training and withdrew from the bout.
Martin, who turns 43 a week after the fight, outpointed Stone (9-8-5, 1 KOs) via 10-round majority decision when they first met. Although Stone does not have a glossy record, Martin said she is not taking the fight lightly because she remembers their meeting well.
"It was a real tough fight," Martin said.
• Robert Guerrero, who claimed a pair of vacant interim lightweight belts on April 9 in a dominant decision win against Michael Katsidis, is slated to return Aug. 6 to headline a Golden Boy-promoted "Boxing After Dark" card on HBO. There is no set opponent or venue yet, and it is possible Guerrero could fight at junior welterweight, a class in which there are future money fights. The opening television bout has not been determined yet, but HBO and Golden Boy are talking about fights involving either heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell (22-0-1, 16 KOs) or middleweight Daniel Jacobs (22-1, 19 KOs), the 2009 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year, who has won two in a row since his upset fifth-round knockout loss to Dmitry Pirog for a vacant belt in July 2010.
• Allan Green (29-3, 20 KOs) -- who lost two super middleweight fights in a row in the Super Six World Boxing Classic on a shutout decision to titlist Andre Ward and by eight-round knockout to Glen Johnson -- has withdrawn from his return fight on next Saturday's undercard of the Carl Froch-Johnson semifinal. Green was slated to move up to light heavyweight, but promoter Lou DiBella said Green withdrew for personal reasons. Edison Miranda (33-5, 29 KOs), another former super middleweight title challenger moving up to light heavyweight, now has an opponent for his eight-round bout on the card: Pittsburgh journeyman Rayco Saunders (20-13-2, 8 KOs). Miranda has not fought since April 2010, when he was knocked out in the third round challenging titleholder Lucian Bute. DiBella is trying to add former junior middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine (32-2, 19 KOs) to the card in a six-round middleweight bout but has not secured an opponent yet. Alcine, who would move up to middleweight, has not fought since Alfredo "Perro" Angulo drilled him in the first round in July 2010.
• In a big heavyweight showdown for England, British champion Dereck Chisora will face 6-foot-9, 265-pound Tyson Fury (14-0, 10 KOs), a heavily hyped 22-year-old, with the vacant Commonwealth title on the line. The bout is set for July 23 at Wembley Arena in London, Fury promoter Hennessy Sports announced. The bout will be available as a $24.95 pay-per-view in the United States, Doug Jacobs of Integrated Sports, which will handle the distribution, told ESPN.com. Chisora (14-0, 9 KOs), 27, was twice scheduled to challenge world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko -- late last year and earlier this year -- but both times the bout was scrapped because of Klitschko's abdominal injury.
• Junior welterweight contender Mike Alvarado's fight with Ray Narh on the May 7 Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley Showtime pay-per-view undercard ended prematurely after the third round, when Narh quit on his stool, citing an illness before the fight that left him weak. Alvarado (30-0, 22 KOs), 30, was winning easily but didn't get in the kind of work he hoped to in anticipation of a bigger fight. So Top Rank is planning for Alvarado to headline a "Top Rank Live" card (Fox Deportes/FSN) in his hometown of Denver on June 30, Top Rank's Moretti told ESPN.com. "We were a little bit disappointed in Ray Narh's performance and we don't want to wait until the fall for Mike to fight, so we are going to go do a fight for him in his hometown," Moretti said. "Mike is a guy who can make some noise at 140, and 140 is a very good division with some big names and big fights, so why not keep him active and keep building him and look for a bigger fight in the fourth quarter?" Alvarado's opponent has not been determined.
• Middleweight prospect Bastie Samir (10-0-1), a 2008 Olympian for Ghana now promoted by Golden Boy, fought to a disappointing six-round draw in a nationally televised bout against Lester Gonzalez on April 8 in Primm, Nev. Samir's urinalysis came back positive for the diuretic Furosemide, a banned substance usually used to assist in weight loss. At a Nevada State Athletic Commission hearing on May 20, Samir, 25, was suspended for nine months and fined $1,050 -- 30 percent of his $3,500 purse. The result of the bout, however, will remain a draw rather than be changed to a no-contest. Gonzalez asked the commission to keep the result a draw, and it agreed, according to commission executive director Keith Kizer.
• Junior lightweight prospect Diego Magdaleno (19-0, 7 KOs) will face Alejandro Perez (15-2-1, 10 KOs) in the scheduled 10-round main event of a Top Rank-promoted "ShoBox" card (Showtime) July 15 at the Texas Station in Las Vegas, Moretti told ESPN.com. Magdaleno is becoming a good draw in Las Vegas, his hometown, where his raucous fans turned out for his third-round knockout of Gilberto Sanchez Leon on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" in May. Perez (15-2-1, 10 KOs) is coming off an upset first-round knockout of fringe contender Antonio Escalante on March 25. In the co-feature, slated for eight rounds, undefeated junior lightweights Casey Ramos (13-0, 4 KOs) and Joselito Collado (12-0, 3 KOs) will square off.
• Former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist Jorge Linares, 25, of Venezuela will end a seven-month layoff Saturday night when he faces Mexico's Adrian Verdugo (18-4, 15 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout in Mazatlan, Mexico. Linares (30-1, 19 KOs) is seeking his fourth consecutive victory since losing his junior lightweight title in a shocking first-round knockout by Juan Carlos Salgado in September 2009. Verdugo took the fight on Friday when Colombia's Francisco Cordero, the original opponent, had issues with his visa traveling from Colombia to Mexico. The Golden Boy-promoted show will air on Televisa in Mexico but will also be available in the United States, thanks to a deal between Golden Boy and AT&T, which will make the card available to its AT&T U-verse television subscribers on U-verse online at www.att.net/boxeo and to subscribers of the U-verse live TV mobile application (9:30 p.m. ET). In the main event, junior flyweight Pedro Guevara (12-0, 8 KOs) fights in his hometown against fellow Mexican Mario Rodriguez (10-6-3, 7 KOs).
• Middleweight titlist Felix Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) and challenger Matthew Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) sounded ready for their showdown at the 20,000-seat Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany, when they met at a recent press conference to promote the June 25 fight, which will air live on Epix in the United States -- the network's third boxing card since March. Although Macklin, a two-time European champion, is from Great Britain, he studied German for six years in school and showed off his language skills by speaking in Sturm's native language, saying, "I'm going to win, there is no doubt in my mind about that. Felix is a great technician. He has been a great champion and he has my utmost respect, but this is my time and my strength and power will be decisive in winning the fight." Sturm didn't quite see things the same way. "Matthew seems very confident, but we will see what happens in the ring. I will bombard him from the first bell and we will see if he can cope with that," said Sturm, who will be making his 10th title defense. "Macklin is an outstanding challenger. He is very experienced and he has that Irish warrior mentality. He has earned this chance and is one of the five best middleweights in the world. It will be a war, but I will be ready for anything and I will do whatever it takes to keep my title."
• If super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (28-0, 23 KOs) of Montreal makes a successful eighth defense of his belt in his native Romania against mandatory challenger Jean-Paul Mendy (29-0-1, 16 KO) of France on July 9, Showtime will hold Nov. 5 for Bute's next fight. That bout is likely to come against either former titlist Mikkel Kessler, the network's first choice, or former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik. ... Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com that he is going to scrap plans for a July 30 HBO PPV card. "I have July 23 on HBO [with Amir Khan defending his junior welterweight title in the main event] and I will focus on that," Schaefer said. ... Welterweight Joel "Love Child" Julio (37-4, 31 KOs), who is coming off a virtual shutout decision against Anges Adjaho on ESPN2/ESPN3 last week, could return later this summer or in the fall against Canadian contender Jo Jo Dan (28-1, 15 KOs), who also won on FNF, taking a six-round technical decision against Steve Forbes in February. Main Events, Julio's promoter, told ESPN.com it has been talking to Dan's representatives. ... In February, Austin Trout (22-0, 13 KOs) went to Guadalajara, Mexico, and outpointed Rigoberto Alvarez (the older brother of junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez) to win a vacant junior middleweight title. The 25-year-old from Las Cruces, N.M., will head back to Mexico to make his first defense in Monterrey on June 11 against David Lopez (40-12, 23 KOs), who is riding a 16-fight winning streak.
"I think he should leave Pop-Pop alone." -- New light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, 46, when asked what he thought about Jean Pascal's request for a third fight after Hopkins' victory last Saturday to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title
"For the first time in my boxing life, I don't have a quote for that." -- More from the usually loquacious Hopkins at his postfight news conference, when asked which was the bigger accomplishment in his career: making a record 20 middleweight title defenses or setting the age record for winning a title
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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