What the Game's Been Missing, Pt. 2: Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz

David ReyesCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2009

Just like any other year, boxing is hopeful and hungry for huge success in 2009. But this year is a bit different than any other in recent memory in some key ways that excite both boxing fans and executives.

First is the fact that two of boxing’s biggest draws are likely retired and will seemingly only come out to fight maybe once more. Second, a new, international superstar in Manny Pacquiao has emerged, and third, the availability of skilled, young talent is arguably the strongest of the decade.

Televised fights have done well in featuring this available young talent, displaying boxers to the likes of Yiokiris Gamboa, Andre Berto, and Juan Diaz, just to name a few.

Additionally, the more hyped fight-cards, like Berto-Collazo, Mosley-Margarito, and Darchinyan-Arce have fared well in the eyes of fans and in the pockets of boxing bosses.

In fact, to the surprise of many, the Mosley-Margarito card set a record for attendance at the Staples Center in Los Angelesbigger than any other live event.

Anyone interested in the best for the sport hopes that this trend will carry on in Saturday’s HBO Boxing After Dark event. The main event features former undisputed lightweight titlist, Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz (34-1, 17 KO) against virtually unanimous pound-for-pound elite, Juan Manuel Marquez (49-4-1, 36KO).

Saturday’s card will also show a co-feature that shouldn’t be slept on as Rocky Juarez (28-4, 20KO) battles Chris John (42-0-1, 22KO) in what it sure to be a good one. But all of the attention is going to aforementioned Diaz vs. Marquez, and maybe, rightfully so.

Some might label it a metaphorical ‘coming out’ party for Diaz.

Others will see it as a proverbial ‘passing of the torch’ from a Mexican legend to a Mexican-American up-and-comer whose potential has not yet been reached.

But regardless of stance, one thing that is clear is that not only because of the type of fighter he is, but who he is, and what he representsthe “Baby Bull” is what the game’s been missing.

Have you ever seen a chubby 135-pound person?

Okaywhat about a chubby 135-pound elite professional boxer who is younger than 30 years old and NOT out of shape?

Factor in the fact that he constantly throws multiple-punch combinations throughout the entirety of the fight.

If you answered yes, then chances are high that you’ve seen Juan Diaz.

The 5’6”, 25-year-old titlist with a healthy dose of baby fat around his gut, puts it all on the line all of the time.

What makes him a good fighter, and potentially partially responsible for shaping the future of boxing is the fact that he acknowledges that he is learning and can improve with every fight.

He notices his weaknesses and tries to address them without straying too far from his signature style of frequently throwing at least 70 punches every round for most of the fight.

In his latest effort, last September against Michael Katsidis, Diaz threw 801 punches and landed about 37 percent of them, including 41 percent of his power punches.

Going in to his March 2008 battle with Nate Campbell, Diaz ranked second only behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the statistical category of difference between a boxer’s average punch-connect percentage and his opponent’s. Diaz was plus-23 percent.

On the flip side, Diaz isn’t necessarily hard to hit, as his fight with Nate Campbell displayed (Diaz was hit 414 times as Nate landed 36 percent of his punches) and needs to improve his defense, especially going in to a fight with a sharpshooter like Marquez.

In a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, who is far less stationary and more jittery with faints and movements than that of Juan Diaz, Marquez landed about 34 percent of his total punches, including 42 percent of his total punches.

Marquez is also a more advanced defensive fighter than his opponent. In the Pacquiao rematch, Marquez was only hit 25 percent of the time. It also shouldn’t be ignored that Pacquiao throws a lot of punches like Diaz, but might be a harder hitter than him.

But to spectators, unless they’re hardcore “Baby Bull” fans, it isn’t about whether Diaz wins or not, but more of what he brings to the tablenon-stop action, aggression, and a whole lot of heart.

Diaz is the type of fighter who old fans of the sport reminisce abouthe throws punches in bunches and doesn’t back down from anyone. But that’s just in the ring. Out of the ring, some may consider Diaz’s story even more notable.

Most boxers wind up in the ring because it was their last resort and they did it to get off the streets or stay out of trouble.

Although those explanations have traces in Diaz’s reasoning, he does it primarily because he loves it…and to pay the bills that he is accumulating while pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Houston.

Upon graduation, Diaz has made it no secret that he hopes to obtain his law degree to eventually assist equal rights efforts in the U.S.; and he is a big time community activist.

The “Baby Bull” is more than just a metaphor, but a statement of how Diaz lives. It represents the affect that he can have on young boxers and young studentsespecially Latinos along the Mexican-American border.

He’s as aggressive as a bullgrabbing life and its challenges by the horns and he charges his opponents like he hopes to charge wrongdoers in courtwith conviction and diligence in hope of the victory.

Win or lose, Diaz’s potential and effect will stretch far beyond Saturday nightfar beyond the boxing ring, which is why Juan Diaz is what the game’s been missing.