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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Veteran Miguel Diaz speaks on the intertwining lives of Pacquiao, Clottey, Mayweather, and Cotto

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Pacquiao vs Clottey

Las Vegas Boxing Examiner | Chris Robinson

Involved in the sport of boxing for well over sixty years, Miguel Diaz’ boxing odyssey has been one that has seen him work the corner of countless champions and contenders from the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Erik Morales, James Toney, Kelly Pavlik and several others. Serving as a head trainer for Top Rank and their stable of fighters, Diaz is able to fill just about any role that is needed in a corner and his expertise is invaluable.

Sitting at Barry's Boxing Center in Las Vegas, Diaz speaks with a sharpened mind that has seen just about any curveball you could throw at him in the sport. The Argentinean has a quick wit about him and rarely raises an eyebrow no matter what news is cast his way. Despite all of that Diaz’ interests were momentarily perked when discussing this weekend’s WBO Welterweight title tilt between champion Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey. When assessing what the Filipino icon has amassed in recent years Diaz immediately tipped his hat.

“Amazing,” Diaz states. “A guy who was a 106 pounder and he went up to be a 147 pounder and to me he is the best, pound for pound. It’s amazing how he brought not only the ability to fight but also his punching power all the way up. Not even the great Roberto Duran was able to do that, one of the greatest Latin fighters. Duran was a great puncher at 135 pounds and became champion at 147, 154, and 160 but he didn’t carry the power. He was wise but didn’t have the power. Pacquiao is unbelievable, he’s knocking out guys at 147 pounds.”

Diaz has been able to see Pacquiao’s destruction on an intimate basis over the past year as he was brought in by Freddie Roach to work the corner as a cutman for the departed Joe Chavez for Pacquiao's December 2008 showdown with Oscar De La Hoya. Looking back on how everything played out, Diaz points to simply knowing the right people in the right places while also being reminded of a situation of his from years’ past.

“The fact that I lined up with [Pacquiao] was because I have a great relationship with Freddie Roach,” Diaz states. “The cutman for Pacquiao at that time was Joe Chavez but he was already working with Oscar and he just had to take De La Hoya over Pacquiao. One day I was training Diego Corrales but I had been working with Floyd Mayweather for twenty-two fights. Then they were going to fight each other but because I was working with Diego Corrales as a co-trainer along with his father I had to take the side of Corrales. Just like Chavez decided to work with De La Hoya, Freddie Roach decided to bring me on as part of the team. The rest is history.”

Diaz has been a key member to Pacquiao's corner ever since and this past November 14th when Manny demolished Miguel Cotto had to be a slightly telling night for him, as he had spent years nurturing the brave Puerto Rican fighter. Despite the disappointing nature in which Diaz’ tenure with Cotto came to a halt he insists that there weren’t any feelings of ill will that night at the MGM Grand.

“I felt uncomfortable because of the way they let me go,” Diaz admits of the Cotto camp. “They never told me anything. They never came in and told what I was or wasn’t doing right. Nobody ever told me anything. I found out through Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank. I had a meeting with him when they went to sign the fight with Joshua Clottey. I don’t know if it was the lawyer or his father who passed away, but they had him tell me that I wasn't working with the team. I don’t feel like it was a revenge for me because I am not a fighter and I am not a revenge guy but I did feel uncomfortable. As a matter of fact I had worked with Joshua Clottey in the past but I couldn’t for this fight when he fought Miguel. I was working with Clottey as a cutman before that though.”

Upon the mention of Clottey, Diaz was asked to switch gears and reflect upon his time assisting Joshua’s corner. Typically mild mannered, Diaz slightly boasts when claiming that he had a key role in helping the Accra, Ghana fighter realize his championship potential on the night of August 2nd, 2008, when Clottey overcame Zab Judah at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.

“I believe myself that I am fully responsible for him winning the fight against Judah,” Diaz says reflectively of their IBF Welterweight championship bout. “He had a bad bicep and he seemed ready to talk to the referee but I saw the action in Judah’s corner and they wanted to stop the fight. [Clottey] had a really bad bicep but I grabbed him and I told him ‘If you say something I will kill you’. After the fight Clottey told his manager that ‘Miguel Diaz really wanted me to win this fight’. I always want my fighter to win the fight no matter what.”

With our conversation coming towards a close it had become increasingly evident that Diaz knows both Pacquiao and Clottey all too well. With that in mind all one needed to do was simply ask the veteran for his thoughts on the matchup to get an insightful response.

“We know how Pacquiao is going to be, there is no question about it,” Diaz says. “Clottey is a very strong fighter with very tight defense. Sometimes he is short on the attack but he is talking about how he is going to come out right from the beginning and try to fight Pacquiao. I don’t know if he is just talking but I think it’s going to be a very hard fight for Pacquiao. He has to be very careful with the countering of Clottey. I see the fight turning in Pacquiao’s favor in the later rounds but before that it’s going to be a fight. Believe me it’s going to be a fight.”

This Saturday night Diaz will once again join Pacquiao and his team as a vital member of their corner as he heads into battle at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Despite knowing that much responsibility lies in his hand Diaz is wise enough to know that he is just one piece of Pacquiao's puzzle on the 13th.

“With Pacquiao. I’m coming at the last minute. Later this week. There is no need for me to come right away. Freddie has a great relationship with Manny and I don’t think there is anything that I can change. Nothing has to be changed anyways and I will be there Thursday night. They know what they are doing and I am just there to help. It’s not going to be a problem.”


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