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Marquez-Diaz II: Role Model Has Underdog Role
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


This is one of those times where I really hope I'm wrong.

Because as a boxing fan, writer or mildly interested bystander, it's hard not to like Juan Diaz.

He's a good young kid. Articulate. Smart. A great role model.

And he's not a bad fighter either -- what with IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO lightweight title belts that used to reside alongside the WBC youth championship jewelry on his mantelpiece in Houston.

But that's precisely where the quandary sets in for this weekend.

When you hold a particular athlete -- boxer, ballplayer, tennis star, figure skater -- in such high regard, the last thing you want to see is that person put into a spot where they risking their status.


Juan Diaz, pictured, will face Juan Manuel Marquez this weekend.
Or in the case of boxing specifically, his health.

I fear Diaz may be in for exactly that come Saturday night in Las Vegas.

When he climbs into the Mandalay Bay ring, he'll for the first time be facing someone -- Juan Manuel Marquez -- who's already proven his superior, in a fight 18 months ago in Houston.

In Diaz's only other career rematch, he lost a wide decision to junior welterweight Paul Malignaggi after beating the light-hitting former champion by a controversial verdict four months earlier.

The initial Marquez get-together drew rave reviews across the board, earning fight of the year recognition from the Boxing Writers Association of America for 2009.

It got my vote in that poll. But somehow the encores never seem to live up.

The show will be televised by HBO PPV beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

The card also features prospect Daniel Jacobs in a WBO middleweight title fight against fellow unbeaten Dmitry Pirog and a 140-pound crossroads match between former lighter weight champions Joel Casamayor and Robert Guerrero.

"This card is so stacked," said Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions. "I asked (CEO) Richard (Schaefer) if he could make room for me. (But) I can't make weight, it is too soon."

As for the main event, Diaz, a budding legal student, insists the law of averages favors him.

"The last two years of my boxing career have been a roller-coaster ride," he said.

"Starting with the Nate Campbell fight, which was my first loss. Then I beat Michael Katsidis and then lost to Juan Manuel Marquez, then beat Paulie Malinaggi and then lost to him. It just makes sense that I am going to win this fight and I am going to keep winning from now on."

The 5-foot-6 whirlwind fared well in the early going against Marquez, 10 years his senior, but began going downhill when the veteran began answering his aggression with precise -- and painful -- counterpunches.

Diaz led on one scorecard, trailed on another and was even on a third when the fight was stopped at 2:40 of the ninth round, propelling Marquez to a mega- event with Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- while the Houston native was left with the consolation prize against Malignaggi.

"We have had a great, great training camp," said Diaz's longtime manager, Willie Savhannah. "I have been with Juan since he was 8 years old. He has never been out of shape, but I have never seen him as in shape as he is for this fight. I think the public is going to see a boxing machine come Saturday night. The Mexican warrior is going to be out on Saturday night because that is who he is.

"I want Juan to fight with a purpose. I heard the odds are 3-to-1 in favor of Juan Manuel. I am telling you to go out and bet your house on Diaz."

Marquez, a former champion at 126 and 130 pounds, won the vacant WBA and WBO titles at 135 in the first Diaz fight. He's not been in the ring since the unanimous decision loss to Mayweather -- for which he weighed 142 pounds -- last September.

His last previous loss had come via split decision to Manny Pacquiao in March 2008.

"Everyone knows Juan Diaz is a great fighter and I have prepared myself very hard for this fight," Marquez said. "When people say 'Why Juan Diaz again?' I always want [to] make the biggest fights and here you have two great fighters. I think this fight is going to be better than the first one because Juan Diaz is a great fighter and a great warrior and I am, too.

"I like to fight. Everyone who knows me knows I like landing so many punches."

* * * * * * * * * *

TV TOPICS

FRIDAY

ESPN2
-- Buffalo Run Casino, Miami, Okla. Delvin Rodriguez (25-4-2) vs. Ashley Theophane (26-4-1) Donovan George (20-0-1) vs. Francisco Sierra (21-3)

TeleFutura -- Moon Palace Resort, Cancun, Mexico Danny Garcia (17-0) vs. Jorge Romero (17-2)

SATURDAY

Fox Sports Espanol
-- El Palenque de la Feria, Tepic, Mexico Simphiwe Nongqayi (16-0-1) vs. Alberto Rosas (31-5) -- IBF super flyweight title Jorge Arce (54-6-1) vs. Martin Castillo (35-3)

HBO PPV -- Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nev. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-5-1) vs. Juan Diaz (35-3) -- WBA/WBO lightweight titles Daniel Jacobs (20-0) vs. Dmitry Pirog (16-0) -- Vacant WBO middleweight title Joel Casamayor (37-4-1) vs. Robert Guerrero (26-1-1)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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