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Media Interview with David Diaz

Posted on 06/19/2008




Lee Samuels: This is a very, very exciting day for Top Rank. The champion is here with us, David Diaz, WBC Lightweight Champion, and he’s getting ready and set for “Lethal Combination,” Saturday June 28 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. He’s going to defend his title against Manny Pacquiao, the three-division World Champion, in an explosive match-up.

David’s been training very, very hard in Chicago and he’s going to be taking all your questions today.

At this time I’m going to turn it over to my boss, the Hall of Fame Promoter and CEO of Top Rank, Bob Arum – Bob.

Bob Arum: Thank you Lee. We’re down to the stretch in this promotion. The card that we’re presenting on HBO Pay-Per-View on June 28 is an outstanding one. In addition to the WBC Lightweight Championship between Manny Pacquiao and David Diaz; Steven Luevano is defending his Featherweight championship against Mario Santiago. Humberto Soto faces Francisco Lorenzo in the WBC Interim 130 pound title fight, and there’s a 10 round heavyweight attraction; Tye Fields of Las Vegas faces Monte Barrett.

But the fight that people are buzzing about matches the pride of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao, the current WBC 130-pound champion facing the pride of Chicago, David Diaz, the Lightweight champion.

This fight, believe me, is going to be a tremendous battle; both fighters have prepared extremely well. We have with us today David, his trainers and managers; Jim Strickland his manager-trainer, and Mike Garcia, co-trainer. And everything is set and ready to go for this, I think will be one of the classic matches in boxing, certainly one of the best fights of the year.

So without further ado, I’d like to hand the microphone over to the Lightweight champion, a former member of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, a great young man who knows that this is his moment in the limelight which he hopes to capitalize on for future great moments; terrific, terrific young man, great fighter, David Diaz.

David Diaz: Thank you, Bob, thank you, Lee. We’re in our final phases of our training. We just started training actually last week, so we’re getting ready to finish off (laughing).

Jim Strickland: We’re very anxious and we’re very appreciative for you accepting this particular match. It’s one – some matches are best whether they’re championship made or to be determined, defended or not. And I think this is one of those kind of fights. It wouldn’t matter if there were a title at stake; when the match is over, every fan out there is going to be thinking they have seen one of the best fights of the year, if not of the decade.

Mike Garcia: We’re just very excited for June 28, and everybody keep your eyes on David. You’re going to see something special that night.

Q: First question is for Jim; what are the qualities that you think David possesses that should allow him to beat Pacquiao? What are the things that he does or that he can do that are going to determine the outcome?

Jim Strickland: I think most of all, was discipline and self motivation; the very same qualities that brought him to earn this fight. That is he’s a self-motivator, he doesn’t compromise on the amount of time he’s in the gym, and he has a – I call a Holyfield characteristic. A type of determination and confidence in himself that he feels he can beat anybody he gets in the ring with.

He’s not intimidated whoever it is

Q: The other question that I have is for you Dave. When you start camp in the initial process, you know, and you move in to the sort of the hardcore part of it, and then as you wind down, – how does your thinking change over that period of time?

David Diaz: It actually doesn’t. We have to keep thinking positive and looking forward that we’re going to come out with a victory and that we’re going to be faster and stronger than our opponent. And our mentality is always the same, going forward and never giving up.

Q: David, you are 12 years into your professional career. You’re obviously a very good amateur, went to the Olympics. I wonder in that long period of time that it took you to get from, you know, when most Olympians turn pro, they get kind of a bit of hype, and you know, it’s quick moving at the start and then sometimes things cool down a little bit before they get into that real serious point where they’re winning titles and fighting in big fights.

It took you a long time, and I know, you know, you worked very hard for it. I wondered if there was a period of time during those 12 years; between the pro debut after the Olympics and now — or even up to the Morales fight let’s say — where you really had doubts that you would ever make it to this level.

David Diaz: Well, yeah, I’m going to be honest, I have never seen myself getting this far. I started off with the Olympics; after the Olympics, I thought I had made it just by turning pro, because I didn’t figure, you know, Bob called. I mean, after the Olympics, I said if anybody calls me I’ll turn pro. If nobody calls me then I’m not going to do it because I didn’t win a medal so I figured I wouldn’t get any money.

So, when Bob [Arum] called I was shocked, surprised, and I was, hey, somebody’s interested, so, I thought I had made it just by doing that. So, I when I took off for two years – I needed that rest, and that – I didn’t want to become that person that, you know, sitting when he’s 45, 50 years old wondering if he had done the right thing by not going all the way.

So, that’s why I decided to come back; to come back and see if we could do a little noise, you know. And thank God, I found Strick, and we ended up working together, and we’re at this place because of him, and I guess my hard work.

Q: Dave, two things for you though; first of all, what would you have done had nobody called? What would you have professionally been – what would you be doing today if no one picked you — Bob or whoever from Top Rank — didn’t call you?

David Diaz: If they didn’t – if Bob didn’t call – nobody called, I probably would have been going trying to go back to school. Because one thing I didn’t do was go to college so, I probably would have done that. Or, I just might have been a 9 to 5er man or 5 to 5 guy.

Q: I know you had that long layoff in there. Was it because you just decided you didn’t want to box or did something specific happen? I know there were some ups and downs in your family life. What was the main reason why you went off for so long and then what was the reason that you decided to make another go of it?

David Diaz: There was a lot of reasons why I – when I was fighting, I was not wanting to train, and I was barely making 140. I had to cut like two days of meals out before so I could make the weight. And that’s not a good way to do it. And, I was tired of going to the gym.

You know, so much in the amateurs and then jumping right into the pros, I should have taken a little bit off, but I didn’t. And then, I had my mom who was sick; I had a brother who passed away, and all of that just didn’t feel right – my life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, and I just decided to hang it up before I lost to anybody who was a regular Joe, a guy that I could beat, who ends up beating me, or I end up getting seriously hurt. So, then I just decided to move back home and hang them up.

And then, when I was going out with this one girl, her name was (Tonya), she was pretty good, and she mentioned why don’t you try to go back in to boxing?

You know how sometimes – my parents were always telling me, hey you should go into the gym at least to watch out, but it takes somebody else, you know, from the outside who’s not someone you see every day, that you might end up listening to. And I ended up listening to her and I ended up going back into the gym, and then it took off from there where I found Strick and I ended up marrying that girl.

Q: What’s (Tonya’s) maiden name; your wife. What’s her maiden name; her given name?

Q: Got it – thank you. And when we talked last week you were on your way to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch at the Cubs game…

David Diaz: Yeah.

Q: …and let’s see, you’ve also done – you also shot a puck during a Blackhawks game. What other things have you been able to do because of your celebrity – the sporting venue in Chicago? Have you been able to do something at a Bulls game or a Bears game or…

David Diaz: Not yet. The Bulls are going through a process right now that they’re getting their new coach and stuff, so I haven’t shown them my skills yet, but I’m sure pretty soon I will be. And with the Bears, they need a running back so I’ll probably step in there and try to put on the pads for them.

Q: Oh, but you haven’t done anything…celebrity wise like you’d thrown out the first pitch like you did at the Cubs game.

David Diaz: Nothing like that.

Q: No coin toss or anything like that?

David Diaz: Hoping to do those other two things.

Q: Okay, that’s on your bucket list then I guess.

Bob Arum: The other teams ought to let him contribute more because he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game; Cubs are having a great season. They’re leading their division.

Q: He and I talked about this. One day at a time you told me.

David Diaz: Yeah, exactly. One day – one day at a time.

Q: You wouldn’t want to put the hex on them. You wouldn’t want do the (unintelligible).

David Diaz: Not to mention that they are 20 games above .500!

Q: Hi Jim. Could you just talk a little bit about what David is doing in training for this particular fight that maybe he hasn’t done before, whether it’s, you know, his strength, his speed. What are you seeing in his training that is impressing you from other fights he’s had?

Jim Strickland: The only thing I might see different at all is more of a concentration on boxing. And that element, I certainly feel grateful for Mike Garcia being around for that because he was the consummate boxer. The last time when we got ready for Erik Morales, I had Kevin Cunningham as the specialty guy, and he’s more of an aggressive guy in spite of the fact that he works Corey Spinks.

Jim Strickland: But, the other thing different, relative to the Morales fight is David is a home body. Just like he said, he wasn’t comfortable in Florida; came home to restart his career. He wants very much to do everything from his home base if possible.

So, this time he did not go out of town at all. A little bit over my objections, but not strongly because I know where he’s comfortably, mentally…be effective in the ring. So, we’re not changing anything except staying at home for the full time, and then the emphasis on boxing rather than being as aggressive as he was with Morales.

Q: It’s been a long road to the title for you, and you’ve had a long hard career. But now that you’re the champ, is being the champ everything that you thought it would be?

David Diaz: It kind of is, you know, a little bit – I just don’t have the money yet. So, that’s still missing. I’ve got a ’91 Honda that I’m still driving with no AC, so hopefully after this fight – after this victory we’ll be able to afford something better. But, it’s more of a pride thing for me man, seriously. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would become world champion and with the most prestigious belt of all, the WBC title.

I t’s like I’m in a dream and now, I’m fighting one of the most dangerous guys in boxing, if not the number 1, pound for pound fighter, and it’s great. I want this challenge, so it’s coming out to be pretty good.

Q: One other thing. There’s an old saying in boxing that a guy used to say, his name is Gil Clancy and he was a famous trainer. But he said that when a guy wins a title that usually he becomes a 25% better fighter.

Do you feel that way like with yourself? Is there something you can point to and say, yeah, I’m a lot better fighter since I won this title?

David Diaz: I’m my own worst critic, so I don’t think that’s for me to answer. I mean, that right there you have to ask my trainer and my coach — Mike or Jim — because they’re the ones who see everything and then they just relate it to me. I’m just a workhorse that goes out and does what it’s told and that’s the only way I can answer that.

Q: Alright, well let me post it to Jim then. Jim, since David’s won the title has he become a better fighter?

Jim Strickland: Well, I think he’s at least 10% better. You get some of that from the pure drive, it adds another little bit to the intensity of workout. And, it’s a confidence builder so he gets more aggressive in terms of trying things that he didn’t feel like trying before. It’s common with 90% of fighters; once they win a belt they do become better fighters. The only question is to what degree.

Q: David, up until now — and who knows what’s going to happen in the fight, and what will happen after that — but up until now, certainly Manny Pacquiao has been more of a cash cow for Bob Arum the promoter than you have.

Do you care or have you even thought about what Bob Arum must be thinking and who he really might want to win this fight?

David Diaz: I really don’t care — Bob no offense — who you want to win, or if you want Manny to win, but I understand the business aspect of it. That’s not my concern; that’s not even anywhere near my thoughts. My thought is to go out there and retain my title and beat Manny Pacquiao. That’s the point and simple to me. Bob can answer that or whatever.

Bob Arum: And that’s well said. My job as a promoter and something that I feel very deeply is to make sure that both fighters have an even playing field. So, whoever wins that fight, wins that fight. And that’s irrespective of any opinions I have, anything. When that first bell rings, it’s a complete non-factor, and what’s going to happen and how the fight is going to progress.

My job is to present the fight, to entertain the public with the fight and with the card, and give it a good promotion, period.

Q: Just wondering kind of what kind of fight you anticipate? If you anticipate a fight like you’ve had in the past — being out there for quite a while and really having to grind it out.

David Diaz: I kind of do expect that. I mean, that’s the only way I know how to find if we have to do a little bit of boxing in there for like ten seconds, then I finally can do that. But other than that, I’m going to be – I want to be in great condition so I can go the distance because that’s what I feel this fight’s going to end up being. And, God only knows what’s going to happen.

Q: David, I’m wondering what kind of homework you’ve done in watching tapes? What fights of Manny’s you have watched, and if you expect Manny to be sort of (unintelligible); come at you frenzied and crazy, or more the technical guy that he has become under Freddie Roach in the last couple of years?

David Diaz: Well, I don’t know. I’ve been watching his last one with Marquez, and the first one with Morales, and we see a couple of things there that we could expose, and we’re just going to go and try and see what happens.

And if he does come out crazy, then I’ll be there to meet him too, because I can get a little crazy myself.

Q: Jim, can you talk about what you see – what you’ve seen in tapes and such. You know, I don’t know how much of your game plan you want to give away, but generalities, what are the kinds of things that you saw in tapes that David is going to try to exploit?

Jim Strickland: Well, I’d rather not dwell, on that. There are some deficiencies we do see in Pacquiao, and as long as he’s been coming to the ring — they say a leopard doesn’t change his spots — there will be little change. We’re just emphasizing those things that we do best — being aggressive, being in top condition, ready to punch or move every second of every minute. And we feel we can just outwork him.

Q: Punch, move every second, okay. Feel we can outwork him?

Jim Strickland: Yeah, as busy as he is.

Q: David, were you joking earlier when you said you drive a ’91 Honda with no AC?

David Diaz: No, I’m not joking; wagon man. You want to buy it?

Q: Man, not even close. I had a car with no AC for a number of years and it sucks – it’s horrible.

David Diaz: Believe me, I know.

Q: Hey, I wish you great luck. It’s a pleasure to listen to your stories are really self-deprecating and I know I’m not supposed to root for anyone but, I do root for you to do well and get enough money to buy a new car.

David Diaz: The Mexican reporter asked me if I was scared of Manny Pacquiao, and I told him no, thank God, you know, the Lord gave me two hands as well so, we’re going to be in the middle of the ring fighting each other.

And then he asked me if I saw any flaws in the Marquez fight and I said that being the aggressor, Manny Pacquiao he stops once in a while, you know, from going forward. And maybe when he’s resting, that’s when we can attack.

Q: Dave, I saw in a recent quote from you that you recognize the great Mexican fighters that Pacquiao has defeated in his career and how people call him The Mexicutioner. With all that – the way that he puts his country on his back and all the history of success he’s had against Mexican fighters, do you feel any patriotic duty to win this fight for Mexico and the legendary fighters of the past?

David Diaz: I definitely do. This fight is dedicated to Mexico and the Mexicans who are here in the U.S. Even here in Chicago the guys that come up to me – the Mexican guys, they’re like, come on David, you got to do it, you’re our last draw

And there’s just that feeling of hope that I see in them when they talk to me that I can accomplish this. And if I can do this, then all Mexicans in Mexico and the ones here in the U.S. are going to be having a good time.

Q: Your only common opponent has been Erik Morales and you won it in a decision and Manny Pacquiao fought him three times winning two by KO and TKO, and losing one by decision. How much have you looked at film of those particular fights to create a strategy and possibly (unintelligible) down some of Manny’s weaknesses?

David Diaz: Well, we’ve only watched one fight because obviously those other two were – when Morales ended up losing. But, we’re taking a piece from there and a piece from the other fight, and see from all of them who he’s fought and try and grab a little bit from every one of them.

Q: Do you think you have an advantage having boxed around the same weight your entire career while Pacquiao – this will be his first fight I believe at lightweight?

David Diaz: I think we’re going to match up pretty much the same. I looked at him and he walks around pretty heavy, so he feels comfortable there. I don’t think it’s much of a difference; I think what’s going to matter more is the conditioning. Whoever is in top condition is going to end up winning this fight.

Q: David, you’re a guy that has fought at a higher weight before. You fought at 140 pounds and what not, before you came back down. Now much has been said about Manny coming up in weight, will he be able to have the same punching power, chin, and all that stuff?

What do you expect from Manny to present to you at this higher weight class?

David Diaz: I expect he still will have his speed and his power. He’s going to be in – I feel in great shape and it’s going to be a great fight. I don’t see any difference of him moving up five pounds.

Q: I know there have been some concerns whether Manny might be taking David a little bit lightly. I don’t know if you’re feeling that at all David; I know even just recently at the public workout in L.A., Manny came and didn’t work out. Does that cross your mind at all. Do you feel he might be taking you a little too lightly?

David Diaz: That’s his problem, that’s not my problem. I don’t concern myself with what other people do. I’ve just got to take care of what I do, what I’m supposed to do, and that’s about it, man. If you keep on concerning yourself about what other people think or do, then you’ve got a problem, and thank God I don’t have that problem. I know I’m going to go in there in shape, and if he’s not, that’s his problem.

Bob Arum: See I know for a fact that Pacquiao has really approached this fight with sincere dedication, and that Freddie, who’s a no nonsense trainer, has told me that Manny has worked harder for this fight than he even worked in the – for the Marquez fight. So, he’s not taking it lightly.

Manny’s a smart guy. He knows what a difficult task it is facing a fighter of the ability and the determination of David Diaz.

Q: You’ve always been known for your hard work ethic and never-say-die attitude in the ring. And in the past you’ve attributed that to the example your father set for you. Could you give us some examples of ways he demonstrated this work ethic to you?

David Diaz: Well, my dad migrated over here to this country with hardly anything – any schooling or anything like that. He didn’t even go to first grade. And his attitude towards work was, he had to work because he had to provide for his family. And he always taught us that – one quick story was he – one time we were in Chicago waiting for the bus, and back then we really had a lot of snow coming down

And ten minutes into waiting outside, I told my dad, hey, the bus isn’t coming let’s get out of here. And he said, you know what, let’s just give it five minutes. If five minutes the bus doesn’t show up then we can leave.

I’m like, alright. Lo and behold, before five minutes were up man, that damn bus came by and so we had to get on that bus, and go to the other line to wait for the other bus another half an hour.

And he just showed me that you have to go do what you’re supposed to do, and that’s the work ethic that I instill in my career.

Q: Another quick question; a criticism in the past has been that even though you’ve got considerable skills, that a lot of times you’ll abandon them and go in with a face-forward style. What kind of things have you done to offset that, to prevent you from neglecting the jab?

David Diaz: I don’t know, man. Sometimes when you get into the heat of the fight and everything goes out the window and then it’s just – you just feel like that. And that’s something that you just can’t control, and I try, try to do it – fixing it by listening to the corner when I get back to the corner.

Q: Will your boys be at the fight?

David Diaz: No, they’re going to be at home here in Chicago. They’re not boxing.

Q: David, there are some people who put Manny Pacquiao now as the number one pound for pound fighter, and then there are others who feel that he’s faded, he’s peaked a little bit, and that even though he got the victory against Marquez, that Marquez might have deserved to have the victory. Where do you see him at coming into this fight, as a fighter?

David Diaz: Well, he’s got a lot on his plate. He’s trying to make history for his country by becoming the first Asian to win four titles in four different divisions. I think he’s going to come very well prepared for this fight. And I place him as one of the best, if not the best right now since Floyd Mayweather retired.

Q: You said you’ve watched the fight that he had recently with Marquez?

David Diaz: Yes.

Q: Is there anything you’ve seen in that in terms of – because again, there were different people that felt that – some felt that Pacquiao won; some felt that Marquez. Do you have an opinion on that – any lessons you can draw for yourself?

David Diaz: Yes. I thought Manny did enough to win the fight. He pressured – what Manny does right is that he can dictate the fight very well. And that’s what a lot people don’t understand, that he has a good ring generalship and even if he’s not throwing punches, he’s making himself look like he’s working where it puts it in the mind of the judges that he’s winning the round. He’s very good at that. And if we can offset that, I think we’ll be in good shape.

Q: Do you want to make a prediction for this fight?

David Diaz: Just that I’m going to retain my belt.

Q: Hey David, are you ready psychologically for what’s going to be a big, humongous Filipino crowd at the Mandalay Bay. We know that it’s going to become the Manila Bay that day, and the day of the weigh-in.

David Diaz: Yeah, I’m ready man. Like I said before, we’re in this – in Spanish there’s a saying, “pocos pero locos.” And we’re going to be – I’m going to have at least 100 people from Chicago going over there. And believe me, 100 people from the Chi can take on 18,000, 17,000 people very easily.
So, we’ll be very prepared; we’re psychologically ready. No faint of heart buddy. That’s just i
Q: Do you have any contact with the Filipino press, and if you did, how they treat you, how they – what do they ask you?

David Diaz: Well, the Filipino press is very, very polite. There’s a guy that I talk to a lot, his name is Dennis Principe, he’s very nice, nice person. They give me a good greeting, and they wish me well. But I know that they want their guy to win it and it’s normal, and I appreciate that. But, in turn, I know I have a lot of people behind me as well.

Like I said before, “pocos pero locos.”

Lee Samuels: Okay, thank you for that question, and great answer David. And, David, what did that mean when you were talking last.

David Diaz: Pocos – a little but few but crazy.

Bob Arum: This is a terrific conference call today. David’s a terrific young man. You know, a really, really good fighter. This is going to be a match, and I’m putting it right out there – this is a match that all of you are going to come out to me – over to me after this fight and you’ll say, “This was a real fight.”

These are not dancers; they don’t dance under the stars. They’re going to fight for 12 rounds or however shorter it goes, but they’re going to give it all, and they’re going to leave everything in the right, and it’s what boxing is all about

Manny Pacquiao and David Diaz are two fine young men, great, great sportsmen, not one bit of trash talking, but it’s going to be a hell of a fight on June 28 at the Mandalay Bay.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with MP Promotions, Pacquiao vs. Diaz will take place Saturday, June 28 at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and will be produced and distributed live on HBO Pay-Per-View, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

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