By: Sergio Luis Martinez
By stopping the inept Pippino Cuevas Jr. in six rounds back in April of this year, Houstonian and former lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz officially retired from his 2 year retirement: his first career ended in defeat in 2010 at the hands of Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez.
Now, with the win over Cuevas Jr. in Corpus Christi, Texas, behind him and with promotionally powerhouse Top Rank courting the possibility of fronting the cost of his second go-round; the Baby Bull appears to be ready for his reincarnation. Diaz, now 29 years old, was in much need of the over two-year hiatus as, due to his all-action style and lack of real punching power, the Baby Bull was showing signs of burnout after several brutal ring wars: he lost 3 out of his last 4 fights.
When Diaz waved goodbye in 2010, it was not impossible to believe; although truly against the odds, that he would be one of the very few boxers in history to not betray his retirement words by returning to the ring. Always seen as a young kid with a solid block resting on his shoulders, Diaz was a high school honor student who graduated at the top of his class. He immediately continued his academic career by enrolling at the University of Houston Downtown as a prelaw student. Diaz often spoke of exchanging fights in rings for fights in courtrooms at a young age and appeared to be right on schedule. Furthermore, it was reported that the Baby Bull had invested his prize money wisely and several profitable business ventures were on the horizon including a trucking company.
The obvious question then is: Why is Juan Diaz coming back?
Carl Moretti, who is employed by Top Rank, recently provided the standard answer to ESPN’s own Dan Rafael. Moretti was quoted as saying, “This isn’t a guy doing it for the money. He’s successful outside the ring (as owner of a trucking company) and he’s a smart guy (as a college graduate). He still wants to fight and his style has always been fan-friendly. That hasn’t changed. We’re looking forward to the fight on Aug. 17 and then we’ll see where we go from there.” The same source reported that Diaz has a one-fight deal with Top Rank to see how things work out.
Although the reason Moretti gives as to why Diaz axed his retirement is entirely plausible; it is hard to believe that a young man reported to have a trucking company profiting over 2 million dollars last year along with various successful business ventures would agree to return to risk life and limb because of some primal instinct to get his brain scrambled. This is even harder to accept after the Baby Bull often stated during the his first boxing life that he was looking forward to life after boxing at a young and obviously prepared for it by allegedly investing wisely and obtaining a college degree.
One also has to ponder the possibility that Diaz is not doing as financially well as is reported, or is not getting the upfront cash flow the upper echelon of boxing competition afforded him. His solid fistic paydays did provide the young Houston cash cow a stream of large sums of money at once.
Willie Savanna, who was involved with Diaz since he is 8-years-old as an amateur, then as his manage/advisor and corner assistant during his first career, recused himself for the “comeback” due to Savanna’s fundamental disagreement with the way Diaz and his “group” of current advisors are doing business.
Savanna told Boxing Insider, “The honest truth is that I didn’t want him to fight and he knows that. I wanted him to go to law school, became a lawyer and have his own practice. I didn’t want him to come back like this. Why go round telling people that your trucking company is making 2.2 million and then say you coming back to boxing? People are going to think you broke. He should leave that shit alone. I don’t know his current financial situation as I stopped trying to keep track of his expense and lifestyle ‘cause it was a losing battle. Juan is a real nice guy but he is also the type that people can get to do what they want. He’s got all these people telling him ‘you’re great’ so he ain’t gonna listen to me anymore. He started saying to me all the time, ‘you don’t know what you talking about,’ so I decided since I was now so stupid all of a sudden in his eyes, I wasn’t gonna say anything anymore.
“I love him like a son but I can’t work with 20 different people telling him what to do. He’s got this entourage now, this group of all these guys that supposed to know what they talking about. I don’t know how or why he believe what they say. They the type that tell him, ‘you were a world champion at 20 years old? If you would have been with us, you’d been a champ at 12.’ It’s just ridiculous so I just don’t get involved. He still trains here at the gym, but I don’t watch him train and don’t get involved. I worry about Juan and will always be here for him but I just can’t work with his entourage; just too many people saying too many things that just don’t make sense. I ain’t about all that.”
This is a man that had stood by Diaz and was in charge of his boxing life since amateur inception to professional completion. With him stepping away, one has to really wonder about Diaz and his current situation.
Another question that must be asked is: What’s in it for Top Rank?
The quickest way to get Diaz back to a world-class payday is to rebuild his name with a few wins over lackluster opposition in order to justify his return to the rankings. The Baby Bull’s second comeback fight scheduled for the seventeenth of August appears to be another step in this direction. Diaz is scheduled to face Brazilian punch bag Adailton De Jesus. De Jesus appears to be having a “comeback” of his own as he has not fought in over 18 months. Furthermore, De Jesus has never defeated a fighter of any real substance, having lost ever step-up fight he has ever been involved in. He sounds like the perfect patsy for the continued rebuilding of a Texas franchise as in his heyday, Diaz would pack over 18,000 fans into the Toyota Center in his hometown of Houston.
Top Rank has a particular interest in this as the legendary company is in much need of a viable 140 pound fighter with enough of a name to challenge Mike Alvarado, so that the winner can be ready to face the winner of Pacquiao-Rios after their November 2013 fight. Should Diaz win as expected in August, it would not be a surprise to see him pitted against Alvarado around the same time- if not on the same card – as Pacquiao-Rios to setup a big 2014 Pay-Per-View fight.
On June 4, 2013 Dan Rafael quoted Bob Arum as saying, “We will put him in Denver, end of October, beginning of November. We’re looking at a number of opponents. [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef] will be going to New York to talk it over with HBO, to talk about the opponents and the exact date.”
Pacquiao-Rios is scheduled for November 23rd, so a simulcast on HBO is not out of the question. Even if the fights do not take place on the same day, one has to consider the winner of Alvarado and whoever he fights as the logical step to face the winner of Pacquiao-Rios. Ruslan Provodnikov has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Alvarado based on the Russian’s performance against Timothy Bradley, but Diaz has more established credentials as he is a former world champion, has faced the better opposition and, because he of Mexican heritage; is a more marketable option for everyone involved. If it makes dollars it usually makes sense.
–Contact Sergio L. Martinez at [email protected]