A visitor to Julio Diaz’s training camp was trying rather delicately to make the point to Diaz that most boxing experts expect him to have a difficult time with Jose Luis Castillo in their lightweight title fight Saturday at Mandalay Bay.
Diaz, though, wasn’t interested in euphemisms or political correctness. He’s heard the whispers and was as blunt as subtle as a punch to the nose.
“Hey,” he said, “they expect him to kill me. I think a lot of people think he might mop the floor with me. I understand that. He’s a big name and I’m just this kid who’s willing to stand up and say, `Heck yeah, I want this chance.’ But I’m crazy enough to think I can win.”
Diaz, 25, gambled Togel Hongkong away a world title for the opportunity, giving up the IBF championship in order to be able to fight Castillo.
Castillo, who is widely regarded as the world’s top lightweight, was slated to fight Las Vegan Diego Corrales, the WBO champion who is regarded as the world’s second-best 135-pounder, on Saturday. But that fight was scuttled by contractual squabbles. Diaz stepped in.
The only problem is he already had signed to defend his belt against Levander Johnson. And though the IBF had indicated to Diaz’s management that it would have granted him an exception to allow him to fight Castillo and retain his belt, he chose to give it up so Johnson could fight for the vacant title.
It was a bold move by a guy who was so lightly regarded just 18 months ago that HBO flatly refused to accept him as an opponent for Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather was scheduled to fight on Nov. 1, 2003, and Top Rank proposed Diaz as the opponent.
But Diaz was only 19 months out from a stunning first-round knockout loss to journeyman Juan Valenzuela and HBO officials, fearing he wouldn’t be competitive, turned him down. Instead, they chose Phillip N’dou, whom Mayweather stopped in the seventh round of a horribly one-sided fight.
“Floyd Mayweather is a great fighter; one of the greatest fighters I have seen,” said Diaz, who is 30-2 with 22 knockouts. “But really, I should have had that chance. That should have been me. It still bothers me to this day. A fight with a Mayweather would have been a win-win for me.”
If he had won, he instantly would have been a star. A competitive loss and he would have increased his stock while a one-sided beating would have been chalked up to Mayweather’s greatness.
But being rejected as incapable of making a competitive fight was a low point for a guy who grew up in a fighting family and understands that first-round knockouts are one of those things that occasionally happen.
“It could happen to anybody. I just got caught and, boom, it was done. It was not like he was beating me over and over for a long period. I got caught, he jumped me and that was pretty much it. But I’m still paying for that. It was three years ago, but it’s still following me.”
But Diaz now has the opportunity to make people forget the Valenzuela fight. If he beats Castillo, he’ll get a May 7 unification bout in the same ring with Corrales. After three years of chasing, he has the chance to get the world’s top two lightweights in the same ring two months apart.
Diaz, who predicts a knockout victory, grinned broadly at the thought.
“You can’t ask for any more than that,” he said.