Commentary

Reflections on an ill-fated night in the ring

Joe Tessitore reflects on Oscar Diaz's ill-fated bout with Delvin Rodriguez on July 17.

Originally Published: July 24, 2008
By Joe Tessitore | ESPN.com

For the past week, I have often been asked about Oscar Diaz. The welterweight contender has been fighting for his life after being TKO'd by Delvin Rodriguez on last week's "Wednesday Night Fights."

Friends, family and fans have asked me what happened, what I noticed during the fight, how bad his situation was and what led to Diaz's collapse.

As much as it pains me to discuss it, I have tried to answer these questions. It's not an easy subject matter or envision to relive. The tragic situation unfolded six feet away from me. It happened to a young man I have known and respected for the past five years.

Hopefully sharing my reflections of July 17 will help satisfy the public curiosity. It's a night that I will unfortunately never forget.

As I write this column, Diaz is gradually improving. Each and every update our ESPN boxing team receives carries nervous anticipation of good news or bad news.

The surgery to relieve the pressure on Diaz's brain was deemed a success. At the moment, he's in a coma. How he emerges is what we keep in our thoughts.

As for what I witnessed in the ring: Diaz fought the way you would expect a veteran warrior to fight. He traded power shots with Rodriguez, he engaged in a battle and he never backed down.

This was not the kind of fight you thought was grossly one-sided. It was not the kind of fight you felt like one man was taking an unfair beating. It was a competitive bout. The fact that Diaz hurt Rodriguez badly from one punch in the fourth round gave hope that at any point, Diaz could still win the fight.

As the night grew longer, so did Rodriguez's advantage. He was hitting Diaz with more and more headshots. Oscar's eye was swelling badly; in Rounds 9 and 10 Diaz was at risk for more damage.

Ocar Diaz acted like a fighter. He was in the fight every step of the way. He never gave notice that he couldn't handle Rodriguez's offensive surges. He was still defending and looking to create his own offense. He was not looking for a way out. He never gave up hope. Diaz was saying all the right things to his corner up until those horrific moments after Round 10.

Joe Souza and Danny Milano accompanied Tommy Brooks in Diaz's corner. Souza and Milano are arguably the two finest cut men in the business. They never noticed anything wrong with Diaz until he rose up and collapsed. I would trust those three men in the corner with my own son. Reality is that Brooks has treated Diaz like a son for years.

The sound that Diaz made when he reached for his head was unlike anything I had heard in my life. It was less of a vocally produced expression and more of a deep exhaling of his body. The way his body slumped into the ref, and then again once on his stool, was also unlike any way I had ever seen a body move. It was as if there was disconnect between body and mind. I was not watching this on a TV monitor but rather with my own eyes. What I saw instantly told me this was very serious.

It was uncomfortable to be on air broadcasting at that moment. It's nearly as uncomfortable just recalling these details in this column. Yet I recognize so many of you have asked what Teddy Atlas and I observed.

I have called many fights in which I have seen a man take a much worse one-sided beating. I have called many fights in which a man received more thudding head blows. This was just a challenging night where each man took punishment. In my opinion this did not feel like a situation in which you would point a finger at the referee, or the corner, and question the lack of a stoppage.

Oscar Diaz had proved he was in the fight. Yes he was clearly losing rounds as it continued, but he always acted like a fully engaged professional still trying to overcome adversity.

This is what I witnessed. Beyond this I would be guessing and stretching the limits of my analysis. It is a horrible incident that happened, and one that I hope will never be repeated. I have prayed numerous times a day for his recovery. I hope you join me in wishing well for Oscar and his family.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Joe Tessitore has been the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and "Wednesday Night Fights" since 2002 and contributes a weekly boxing column to ESPN.com.