by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Mexican American boxer David Diaz sat uncomfortably next to the brown podium squirming like a child who cannot sit straight. He put his head down on the table. He hunched over and covered his face with his hands. At times, his trainer Jim Strickland would rub his back sensing his fighter’s nervous energy.
His nervousness wasn’t because his next opponent Manny Pacquiao sat across from him. Diaz is just not used to all this media attention.
“Obviously, I haven’t been covered this much,” said Diaz, the World Boxing Council (WBC) Lightweight Champion. “I don’t like this. I don’t like the media. I don’t like it. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t do this. We would just stick to training and that would be it. If I can be in the gym or do something else that’s what I’d rather be doing; not be in the media.”
Diaz better get used to it. He is fighting perhaps one of the most celebrated and popular fighters in Philippine boxing history. Pacquiao is like blood in the water when it comes to the media feeding frenzy. Diaz, is more like a fish out of water when it comes to the attention.
Diaz and Pacquiao met for the first time on Tuesday at a crowded Downtown press conference announcing their championship bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas set for June 28. Diaz will defend his WBC Lightweight Championship bout.
Despite being the bigger fighter (Pacquiao has to move up to 135 pounds) and carrying one of the premiere championship belts in the division, Diaz is an overwhelming underdog in the bout.
Diaz has two knocks against him coming into the fight – he’s Mexican and will be in his first high profile fight.
“Manny Pacquiao has beaten many great fighters, especially Mexicans like [Erik] Morales, [Marco Antonio] Barrera, [Juan Manuel] Marquez, [Oscar] Larios, and [Jorge] Solis,” said Diaz, a Chicago native. “That’s why they call him the ‘Mexicutioner.’”
“My fight with Manny Pacquiao is by far the biggest fight in my career, the toughest in my career,” he added. “It’s a fight that every fighter should want to have and every fighter needs so he can prove himself that he belongs to be with the best.”
While Diaz squirmed around the media, to his right sat a confident Pacquiao with his back straight, flashing a wide grin. Pacquiao relished the moment despite having a paparazzi style crowd photograph his every movement.
For Pacquiao, this fight is about solidifying his boxing legacy.
After capturing the WBC Super featherweight title against Marquez in a grueling battle last month, a win against Diaz would give the Filipino boxer four world titles in four different weight classes. He would be the first Filipino and Asian boxer to ever accomplish the feat. It’s the reason why he and Top Rank President Bob Arum opted not to pursue a Marquez III rematch – right away.
“I’ve said it before if you know what you’re doing as a promoter, you don’t do a rematch right away,” said Arum. “You let Manny fight a tough fight against Diaz. Marquez can fight a Nate Campbell and then next year they can fight each other. It’ll be a much more interesting fight.”
Despite the favorable odds, Arum knows Pacquiao’s fight against Diaz won’t be easy.
“[Trying to win four titles] is a big task but that’s the mountain that he set to climb,” he said. “David Diaz is a rough and tough guy who throws a lot of punches, who doesn’t get discouraged and is dangerous throughout the fight.”
Pacquiao said that he matches up well against Diaz. He expects an all action-packed bout come fight night.
“He’s a good fighter because he’s going to fight toe-to-toe,” said Pacquiao. “And that’s what I want – to fight toe-to-toe… I need to win this fight because I’ll be the first Filipino/ Asian fighter to win four championships in four different weight divisions.”
Trainer Freddie Roach is cautiously optimistic approaching the Diaz match. Roach said that Pacquiao can knockout Diaz if he sticks to the game plan, something he didn’t do especially in the last Marquez match.
“Diaz is a very strong durable guy. He’s not a knockout artist but he’s physically strong. He uses his elbows and shoulders when he gets inside,” said Roach. “I was just talking to Manny about that. I said, ‘Manny the way to beat this guy is to keep on your toes similar to the Marquez fight.’ We have to do that all fight long.’
Roach is going to be sure to stress the power of Pacquiao’s right hand.
“He’s fighting against a southpaw so we’ll use the right hand as a good counterpunch against Diaz,” added Roach.
Meanwhile, Diaz said he expects Pacquiao’s punching power to lessen as he moves up in weight.
“I will shock the world and beat Pacquiao at his own game, power for power. He’s a great champion but he’s fighting in my division – lightweight,” he said. “I have worked too hard for this world title and I will not give it up to him.”
“I have nothing but utmost respect for him but we plan on keeping the WBC lightweight championship belt,” he added. “I’m sorry to tell you guys that especially to the Filipino people. I’m sorry. I just can’t allow that. That’s just in me. I don’t want to lose, I’m going to pray not to lose, I’m going to work out so I don’t lose, I’m going to run, eat, train and think of Manny Pacquiao from now on.”