De La Hoya's company to sign prized lightweight Diaz

Originally Published: September 11, 2006
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Golden Boy Promotions has become to boxing what the New York Yankees are to baseball: A company always in the hunt to land the big free agent.

Juan Diaz
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesJuan Diaz (left) leaves Main Events to join the Golden Boy roster.

Oscar De La Hoya's company reeled in its third star fighter in less than two weeks Sunday night, agreeing to terms with lightweight titlist Juan Diaz, manager Willie Savannah told ESPN.com.

"We don't have a signed contract but we have agreed in principle to a deal with Golden Boy," Savannah said. "I haven't seen a contract but we agreed on everything. I think everything will be OK. Everything is being put to paper and then our lawyer [Fred Levin] will go through it."

The agreement comes on the heels of Golden Boy last week re-signing junior featherweight titlist and noted power puncher Daniel Ponce De Leon to a contract extension and the signing of free agent featherweight star Juan Manuel Marquez.

"What I think it shows is that Golden Boy Promotions has the resources and the infrastructure to sign the fighters we feel strongly about," said Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer. "Juan Diaz is one of the fighters Oscar really wants to work with, so we got it done. It shows, as well, to other fighters out there that Golden Boy is certainly one of the leading promoters out there and a company able to step up to the plate."

Diaz (30-0, 15 KOs), who turns 23 next week, was one of the most sought-after free agents to hit the market in years because it's so rare for an undefeated world champion that young to be available. For Diaz, it came just as he is beginning to break though. He has improved in recent fights and boxes in an aggressive, fan-friendly style that the TV network programmers adore.

"He has tremendous skills and he's such a great person outside the ring," Schaefer said. "Oscar feels very strongly that he is the total package and we're really excited to have the opportunity to work with him and with Willie. Juan Diaz is one of these young stars who fits in very nicely with Golden Boy. He's part of that next generation of stars."

Diaz had been with Main Events for virtually his entire career, but when their deal expired in mid-August, and they could not reach an agreement on an extension, the other promoters came courting.

Savannah said he received serious interest from at least 10 promotional firms, including Main Events, Top Rank, Artie Pelullo's Banner Promotions, Gary Shaw Productions and Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing.

In the end, Savannah said Golden Boy edged out DeGuardia because it put together a better overall package.

Diaz's minimum three-fight deal with Golden Boy includes a six-figure signing bonus and options to extend the deal, Savannah and Schaefer said.

Diaz, a Houston native who balances his boxing career with college studies, has made four title defenses since outpointing Lakva Sim to win the title in July 2004.

Diaz's first fight under the new deal is expected to come Nov. 25 on HBO's "Boxing After Dark." Golden Boy's plan is for Diaz to co-headline a doubleheader from Texas with fellow lightweight titlist Jesus Chavez. If they both win, they would meet in a unification bout in the first quarter of 2007.

The short duration of the deal -- which could be concluded by late 2007 -- is something Savannah wanted even though most of the promoters wanted to sign Diaz for several years.

"I want Juan and I to get a chance to learn about the promoter rather than get into a five-year deal and not know what we are getting into," Savannah said. "We may not get along down the road. A three-fight deal is the best scenario. If we don't like what Golden Boy is doing, or they don't like working with us, by next November it's over with. It keeps everyone on their toes."

Savannah said their first choice was to stay with Main Events, a company that nurtured Diaz from his early pro days to a world title at age 21 while securing him valuable exposure on HBO, Showtime and ESPN2 along the way.

"I don't blame them at all for anything," Savannah said. "I wish we could have stayed with them. It breaks my heart to have to tell some of these guys they are not getting Juan."

Main Events suffered two major blows this summer when franchise fighters Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti suffered potentially career-ending losses. It had hoped to re-sign Diaz and heavyweight contender Calvin Brock, whose contract also expired over the summer, to lessen the blow.

However, Diaz got away, and although Main Events' Carl Moretti clearly sounded unhappy about the development, he refused comment.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.