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Juan Diaz-Baby Bull


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One of the best and most successful lightweights of this century, "Baby Bull" Diaz managed to capture no less than 3 world titles at this weight. He was famous for his non-stop aggression and incredibly high work rate, which was needed since he didn't possess enough punching power. Diaz seemed unbeatable for some time, until he was exposed as beatable first by Nate Campbell, who bested him in a close fight. After losing to Campbell, Diaz would never experience the same success and also lost twice to Juan Manuel Marquez, both times giving a good account of himself however. In his fine career, he beat guys like Lakva Sim, Acelino Freitas, Julio Diaz, Julien Lorcy, Michael Katsidis, Paulie Malignaggi (by a controversial decision) and Jose Miguel Cotto. His career at 140 is far less coveted and his only noted victory there is a tainted one, that against Malignaggi. Here is a closer look at the career of Juan Diaz.

 

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Diaz started boxing at eight years of age, at Willie Savannah's boxing club in Houston. As amateur, he won the gold medal at the 1999 Mexican open national championships and was declared the outstanding boxer of the tournament. He also thought he had qualified for the Mexican team for the 2000 Olympics, but was then told he was too young to compete (he would be 16 in the Olympics as he is born in September '83). He at first considered staying in the amateurs and competing at the 2004 Olympics, but ultimately decided against it and turned pro in June that same year, winning his first fight by a TKO1, weighing 142. He won his first 5 fights by a stoppage within 3 rounds and went 20-0 before winning the WBC Youth light title by UD over Eleazar Contreras jr, 10 May 2003. He defended that title twice, once by UD and once by a TKO6, before vacating it. He was then chosen as the first challenger of Lakva Sim, who had become the WBA champion by stopping Miguel Callist in 5. Mongolian Sim was a tough and hard-hitting fighter and the two warriors commenced 17 July 2004 at Reliant Center in Houston. Sim stood an inch and a half taller than the 5'6 Diaz, but Diaz won impressively as he outworked the more experienced Mongolian to win by a wide UD in front of home fans and lift his first world title. He made his first defense in a busy fight against Frenchman Julien Lorcy, who earlier had held the same title, and again won by a wide UD. They both threw a combined 1929 punches! He then stopped the Canadian Billy Irwin by a TKO9 in his second defense; after putting Irwin down in the second round, the fight was stopped due to lacerations below the left eye of Irwin. He then decisioned the 27-0 Jose Miguel Cotto, brother of Miguel, before again winning by a TKO9 against Randy Suico in his fourth defense. After decisioning the tough Fernando Angulo of Venezuela, he then signed for his first megafight against Acelino Freitas, who held the WBO title he took against Zahir Raheem. Freitas was however a spent force by then but still game enough. They met on 28 April 2007 at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket and Freitas had very little answer to Diaz's aggressive swarmer tactics and was behind on all scorecards when he chose to quit after round 8. It was a great success for Diaz, as Freitas had only one previous loss-to Chico Corrales. This would also remain his last loss, as he retired soon thereafter.

 

Baby Bull now set his sights for another world title-the IBF one it turned out, held by fellow Mexican-American Julio Diaz. Diaz was the taller man and a harder hitter, but he had no answer or the right gameplan for Baby Bull's constant assault either. They faced off on 13 October at Sears Centre and tho Diaz won a couple rounds, in the end he was forced to quit after one second of round 9 due to taking too much punishment. Baby Bull Diaz was now a threefold champion and began appearing on top 10 p4p lists. Few would've expected that the man who would end his gravy train was Nate Campbell, a guy 11 years his senior, who was considered an underachiever who had squandered his chances already. The fight happened on 8 March 2008 at Plaza del Toros in Cancun, Mexico and the slightly taller Campbell scored a cut over the left eye of Diaz in round 5. He was also a harder hitter and managed to inflict just enough damage to get a split decision in the end, thus taking all the three belts in one single fight. According to Compubox, Cambell landed 414 of 1165 punches and Diaz 288 of 891. And thus, after 33 fights without a loss, his zero had been taken. He came back in September to take the vacant IBO title with a hard-earned split decision against Australian brawler Michael Katsidis. It was a toe-to-toe battle for much of the fight and Diaz in the end managed to swell the right eye of Katsidis, doing more damage obviously. Katsidis closed strong to earn the verdict on one card, but the other two had Diaz ahead. The stats showed Diaz clearly outlanding Katsidis, who came in with a record of 23-1. Feeling emboldened by this success, Diaz then challenged one of the top p4p fighters back then: Juan Manuel "Dinamita" Marquez. The fight happened 28 February 2009 at Toyota Center in Houston and was one for the ages. Diaz as usual upped the tempo early on and had Marquez against the ropes frequently, but Marquez withstood his barrages, despite getting slightly cut in round 5, and came back to drop him twice in round 9 before it was over at 2:40. It was named both The Ring's and Boxing Writers Association of America's FOTY. With this victory, Marquez won the vacant WBA and WBO belts and Diaz's IBO belt.

 

Diaz then decided to move up to 140 and fight Paulie "Magic Man" Malignaggi for the vacant WBO NABO title, 22 August that same year. The fight was again at Toyota Center in Houston and the fight was close, but most people in attendance agreed Malignaggi had won. Yet, despite that, Diaz was controversially awarded the decision, one judge even scoring it 118-110 for him. Harold Lederman had Malignaggi winning by 115-113. Because of this controversy, a rematch was issued and happened on 12 December, this time on neutral ground in Chicago, UIC Pavillion. Malignaggi scored a cut on Diaz with a combination in round two and scored a controversial knockdown in round ten and in the end won by 116-111 on all scorecards. Baby Bull then decided to return to 135 and again challenged Marquez, fighting him on 31 July 2010 at Mandalay Bay and this time going the distance, but getting outboxed and clearly losing on points as well. It was obvious his peak time was over and his glory had passed. Baby Bull had lost his horns or they had grown dull. He retired for a while before coming back in 2013, once again as a lighweight and winning his first two comeback fights by a TKO. He however only fought lower-level competition and after 7 fights he hung em up for good, after having his last fight on 6 August 2016 and beating Cesar Vazquez by a TKO8. He was almost 33 and had fought for 16 years all in all, with a 3 year break. His record is 42 wins with 21 ko's and 4 losses, 1 by ko.

 

Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz was a magnificent offensive fighter in his prime, despite his lack of power, but his fighting style meant that his prime would not last too long and he simply wore himself out with time. A major turnaround was his first loss to Marquez, which seemed to take something out of him. That was definitely the end of his prime. Luckily for him, he mantained a full academic schedule while boxing and eventually graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Houston university. He is now a community activist and also owns a promotion company which in cooperation with ESPN produced The Baby Bull Show, a radio show about boxing, as well as a trucking company with his brother Jose. He has thus done well in retirement and was known as a friendly guy while boxing who was beloved with the audiences.

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