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Boxing News, June 30, 2006

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A Long, Slow Slog For Everyone
When, If Ever, Will David Diaz’s Career Take Off?



Telefutura’s lightweight clash between David Diaz and Chris Favela was the kind of fight you pray not to write about.  It’s the roughest of assignments.  A hard-fought, 12-round contest between willing combatants—that was completely devoid of drama and excitement.  It was a long, slow slog for the fighters and fans alike. And the final destination was met with a sleepy-eyed, collective yawn.

Diaz, now 31-1-1 (16), was awarded a landslide unanimous decision.  Scores were 120-108, 119-109, and 116-112. (I had it like the last score.)

The Chicagoan Diaz was a 1996 U.S. Olympian. He beat Zab Judah as an amateur, supposedly running him out of the ring in the U.S. Olympic Trials, stealing the spot the brash Brooklynite thought was his.

Diaz has a large head, a thick squat torso, and a proud jaw.  He’s tough, hard-nosed, and unspectacular. His triumph over Judah foretold what would happen ten years later, when Carlos Baldomir—another tough but limited Latino with similar physical characteristics—pretty much ran Judah out of the ring, snatching his welterweight belts in the process.

But the comparisons between the southpaw Diaz and the orthodox Baldomir ought to stop here. Baldomir is a road warrior who, after years of toiling in anonymity, seized the moment when it was presented to him last January at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.  Diaz has long been cast as the hometown hero, having fought sixteen times in his native Illinois. Presumably, expectations were high for him in the beginning. But his career has never taken off, and you wonder if it ever will. 

His promoters, Ring 8, have matched him pretty soft. His management had him drop down to lightweight from jnr. welterweight, where he’d spent most of his career as a so-so puncher.  Considering that he’s 30, has been pro for a decade, is ranked #4 by the WBO, has lost only once (albeit a bad TKO by Kendall Holt), you’d think a title shot would’ve come by now.  If/when it does, is he capable of stepping up?

Chris Favela, now 11-10-4 (7 ), took the fight on short notice.  For the first five rounds he ran from Diaz.  Diaz would methodically stalk him, focusing on cutting off the ring rather than following.  He didn’t press him with any urgency, and the whole affair had the appeal of half-assed sparring.

By the sixth, Favela had run out of gas and was left no choice but to stand and fight. For three rounds they worked in close quarters. Diaz, physically stronger and technically sounder, generally got the better end of the exchanges. But Favela had a sneaky counter overhand right that kept finding its mark; it turned Diaz’s lower left eye into an angry growth of bluish purple tissue.  (For some unknown reason, Diaz’s cutman didn’t apply an enswell to it.)

In the ninth, they separated themselves and took a breather.  The damage to their faces showed the bout was fairly brutal—but trust me, this wasn’t Corrales-Castillo revisited. Favela began to stalk Diaz. The hometown fighter opted to box and gave him some different looks.  Then, for the remaining nine minutes, they stood in close again.  They worked honestly but the action felt prescribed.

Together, they had the in-ring/on-screen chemistry of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli.  You looked at your watch, held your breath, and waited in vain for what boxing is normally so good about delivering: the Theater of the Unexpected.


Other action:
Featherweight Barbaro Zepeda took an entertaining four-round UD over Miguel Angel Figueroa.

Mike Gonzalez stopped Jeff Hinds—KO 3—with a picture-perfect left hook upstairs in a battle of jnr. middleweights.

Trinidad Garcia won a SD over Chris Govan.

Heavyweight Thomas Hayes beat Mike Sheppard via UD 6.

Middleweight Donovan George had a TKO 2 win over Robert Smallwood.

Middleweight Alberto Mercedes TKO 6 over Kenny Kost; Francisco Diaz UD 6 over Moises Martinez.





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