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08/08/2006 Archived Entry: "David Diaz on Jose Armando Cruz: I think I want It More!"

David Diaz on Jose Armando Cruz: I think I want It More!

Story and photos by Juan C. Ayllon

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David Diaz (left) and his manager,Jim Strickland, work the abs with the medicine ball

CHICAGO, Ill., August 7 – In five days, native Chicagoan boxer David Diaz will fight under the bright lights of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas for a world championship—the World Boxing Council Interim Lightweight Title, to be exact.

Listed at 5’ 7”, the 1996 Olympian faces quite literally an uphill battle against Jose Armando Cruz, who at 23-1 and 13 knockouts, stands at 5’ 10.” However, fighting on the under card of the Hassim Rahman-Oleg Maskaev WBC Heavyweight Title clash, Diaz at 31-1-1 and 16 knockouts, anticipates their bout stealing the show, as he brings the full weight of his heart and soul—not to mention the pride of Chicago—to bear on Cruz. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the other way around.

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“This is what I’ve been working for the last 10 years as a pro and another 10 years as an amateur. All boxers want a shot at the title. I will do my best to represent my family and the city of Chicago,” said Diaz.

And to think, Diaz’ manager, Jim Strickland, almost called it off.

Strickland said, “He’s come through a rough four weeks of training starting out good. [He suffered] some minor injuries—shoulder, back. Back four weeks [ago], I was really worried. In fact, to be perfectly honest, two weeks ago, I said, ‘I’d like to cancel this fight and pull out of it. But, luckily, the little minor injuries cleared up. But, mainly he began to have a little more positive attitude. Of course, his training was more the usual intensity.”

Continuing, Strickland said, “One thing I’ve always been blessed with, with him, is that he’s had intensity, he’s had a fierceness about training that’s not been equaled by any other fighter I’ve had. You don’t have to push him as much. But there were some times during this training period when he felt down and I really had to push. And I felt very concerned about it. I didn’t think our chances were good. But luckily in the past two weeks, he really began to take hold, he began to accept my urging him to work through it, and this last week has been one great week. I think he has a very good chance. [In fact,] he’s the favorite. I see him winning now, clearly. Before, I had great doubts and concerns.”

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Diaz performs pushups as Strickland looks on

On this, his last day of live sparring, Diaz sparred with local boxers Germaine Sanders and Miguel Figueroa for a total of seven to eight rounds at the balmy Windy City Gym on Chicago’s west side.

“He was working just for defense,” said Windy City trainer Sam Colonna. “He’s just tapering off today.”

Winding down his workout in the late afternoon before the rush of patrons, Diaz finished with sit-ups, push-ups, weighted neck exercises and stretching, and then, along with his manager Jim Strickland, granted this exclusive pre-fight interview.

JUAN AYLLON: How are you feeling, David?

DAVID DIAZ: “I’m feeling pretty good. Today was our last day of sparring and I think I did pretty good. I did some floor work, a little bit of double end speed bag, and we just finished up about five weeks of hard work.”

JA: I understand you were sparring tall middleweights David “The Weezel” Estrada (sic) and Rudy Cisneros. Tell us about that.

DD: “Those guys have been my main sparring partners for this fight. I want to thank them a lot because they helped me tremendously. When I wasn’t doing good, they didn’t take it easy on me; they pushed me to my limits, and I appreciate it. I think we’re going to show what Chicago’s made out of. I feel that these guys helped me out a lot for this fight.”

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Diaz does weighted neck exercises on a table

JIM STRICKLAND: “It was very good, because the fellow we’re fighting is taller than [David]. And they’re a couple inches taller than the fighter we’re fighting. But, more than that, they’re 20 lbs. heavier than David. And at first, there was some concern to him that I was pushing him to work eight to 10 rounds with both guys being that heavy.

“Normally, you just take one [heavier] guy and then a lighter guy. But, we needed to cover far more ground in this shorter space of time. And they were just wonderful workouts! And that’s where he found himself.

“There were times during some of those workouts, he wanted to cut it shorter a round or two and felt tired. I said, ‘Uh-uh. You’re going to feel just as tired or more tired than this in that ring. You’re going to have to just break through the pain barrier. And he was thankful he did. After that roughest day of sparring, he said, ‘Boy, I’m glad you made me do that.’ And he did; he persevered. He’ll be successful.”

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DD: “Also, I’d like to thank Germaine Sanders, [and] Jose Hernandez for also giving me motivation and telling me to work all the time here in the ring. I appreciate everybody’s help that they’ve been pushing me to my limits so I can look good and represent Chicago well.”

JA: What kind of miles have you been logging on the road?

DD: “I’ve been logging pretty much five or six miles every other day, just doing a lot of road work as well, wind sprints, and doing what we have to do to get in shape.”

JA: Can you tell us any concerns you have about your upcoming fight with Cruz?

DD: “Just his reach, he’s going to be tall. But from what I’ve been seeing in the tape, he likes to come in and bang. So, I think it’s going to be a very exciting fight. Probably, we’re going to steal the show. I hope we do. And they like what we do for them. I’m definitely going to go out there and give this my all and put my heart and soul into this fight.”

JA: Any prediction?

DD: “No predictions, never—just I’m going to go out there and do my best. The guy’s got two hands, too. If he had one hand, maybe I’d say I’ll win. But, he’s got two hands, so, he’s probably going for the same thing that I’m going for. But, I think I want it more and I think I’m hungrier for it. So, hopefully, we can come out with a victory and come back to Chicago as a champ.”

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Diaz stretches his lower back

JA: Jim, now, you’ve got five more days until the match. For those unfamiliar with the process, what’s going to happen over the next several days?

JS: “We’ll have to leave tomorrow night after his lightest workout tomorrow—just floor work, [and] a little bit of bag work. We’ll arrive there about 11 O’clock at night, [get] to bed as soon as possible. We have an 11 AM, maybe 10 AM press conference.

”That brought us in one day earlier than ideal for me. I wanted to leave Wednesday night, not Tuesday night, and then all of our training would have been done with that one day, Wednesday, here and then there, just went to the little health club in the hotel, jump rope, [and] shadow box. But, we’re going to need to go to the gym Wednesday late afternoon for a decent workout, but nothing pushing that hard. Then Thursday, we probably won’t go to the gym at all. We’ll just workout in the health club where he may jump rope, shadow box, [and] work up a sweat. Maintaining weight is all we’ll be doing on Thursday. The weigh-in—taking the weight Friday morning—I don’t think it’ll take anything to make weight. And then just rest until fight time.”

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JA: And Jim, where is David at now bodyweight wise?

JS: “He is good! It’s the proof that he doesn’t need to be, or even shouldn’t be a junior welterweight. He weighs 135.8 lbs [and] something. He’s no more than one pound over [the 135 lb. lightweight limit] after today’s workout. And you notice, he is not now, nor ever, worked out with rubber, nylon sweat clothing, not even heavy sweats, just the normal workout attire that he worked out in when he was fighting at 140. Maybe he raises the intensity of the workout maybe five percent, which is good. And, [he’s] a natural 135-pounder.”

JA: Any big plans for after the fight?

DD: “After the fight, just relax with my family. I’ve got a lot of people that are going with me and I’m definitely going to spend time with them.”

JA: I talked with my brother, Luis, who said he was up for having a celebration for you down at Cabs Wine Bar Bistro in Glen Ellyn, too. Any thoughts?

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David and Tanya Diaz at Cabs

DD: “Oh well, I appreciate it. And I would appreciate it the most! Definitely, let’s bring back the belt first and then we’ll talk about the celebration. I don’t like to jinx it. So, I’d like to first bring the belt and then we can have as many parties as we want.”

JA: Any other comments you’d like to share with the readers?

DD: “Just tell everyone in Chicago thank you for your support, for always being behind me. Even when it seemed like they were writing me off, my Chicago fans were always behind me and I appreciate them for that. And hopefully I can make them proud. Also, [8 Count promoter] Dominic [Pesoli], he’s an awesome guy. He’s been in my corner since I came back and I appreciate all that he’s done for me.”

JS: “I just hope that all of Chicago is tuned in and he’s hoping with all his heart that they’ll be walking him back as the new champion, something that we never thought of only three months ago.”

Following the interview, several others in the gym chimed in with their thoughts.

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Nora Reyes works the pads with Sam Colonna

Female boxer, Nora Reyes, who trained hard for her next fight on September 15th at the Aragon Ballroom said, “David’s really very confident, he’s very dedicated and he really puts his mind to it. He gets the job done. [If] he wants to do something, he’s going to do it.

"That’s David, unlike a lot of other boxers that I see coming in and out of a gym, yeah, they train and they train, [but] no one’s ever as dedicated as David. He really puts his whole heart and soul into it! He’s got the concentration, just a lot of everything. You know, that’s why he’s where he’s at; he’s good. He’s one of the best.

“I think—not I think—I know he’ll win. He’s definitely gonna win.”

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In a lighter moment, Diaz does his impression of famed martial artist, Bruce Lee

Gym staffer Juan Valdez said, “He’s got good conditioning, he’s got that good discipline, he had good sparring with everybody, he’s looking very strong. He’s going to be the winner!”

Trainer Sam Colonna said, “This is the hardest I’ve seen David work. He’s been really dedicated to this fight. He’s got a lot of sparring in; he got some of the best sparring in the city. He’s done a lot of rounds for this fight. Physically, his body looks great; he’s on weight already, which I’m really happy about.”

Continuing, he said, “I don’t think this guy’s got the experience that David’s got. David’s been there with some better fighters, David’s been through the Olympics. Looking at David’s background, David should be more than ready for this guy.” Colonna added with an enthusiastic smile, “Chicago, look for the new champion, David Diaz!”

It’s time. And, this time, there’ll be no calling the fight off.

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Sam Colonna (left) handles a cell phone call while novice boxers spar in the ring

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Jim Strickland watches Diaz from ringside

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Nora Reyes with Juan Valdez

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A couple gym regulars skip rope

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Female boxers Nora Reyes (left) and Kristen Gearhart

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David Diaz and his manager, Jim Strickland

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