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Sunday June 1, 2008 5:02 PM PST

 

Pacquiao-Diaz Tour Hits Berkeley

By Mario Ortega Jr.

The press tour for the June 28th clash between WBC Lightweight Champion David Diaz and WBC Super Featherweight Champion Manny Pacquiao, to be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, made a stop in Berkeley, California on Saturday. The West-Wind School hosted the event at their gym, which was packed to capacity with Pacquiao supporters. After each fighter worked out in the ring, they fielded questions from the Bay Area press on hand to cover the event.

Diaz (34-1-1, 17 KOs) of Chicago, Illinois was the first to take the ring. Diaz was greeted warmly by the vastly pro-Pacquiao crowd. After his public workout, Diaz acknowledged the friendly greeting he received and talked out the mutual respect he and Manny have for each other. “You see the love they have for Manny here, it’s unbelievable,” says Diaz looking at the predominantly Filipino crowd. “He is going to do his talking in the ring just as I am.”

Despite competing in the 1996 Olympic Games, Diaz reached the upper levels of the sport much later than most of his U.S. Olympic Teammates, and one of the fighters he beat out for his spot on the team, Zab Judah. Diaz got his first taste of the limelight last year, headlining a pay-per-view card in defense of his title against Mexican icon Erik Morales. However build-up to this fight is like nothing Diaz has been apart of before. “I’m not used to it, and because I’m not used to it, I don’t like it,” said Diaz of his responsibilities to the press tour. “It takes away from what I’m doing. I’m a guy that likes to clock in at ten o’clock, and if I am supposed to leave at one o’clock, then that’s when I leave. Not a minute less, not a minute more, but right on time. Situations like this, it changes the whole system, but you’ve got to adapt to it.”

In the fight with Morales, Diaz put himself in the discussion at lightweight with a decision win in a close fight. Generally the debate as to who the top lightweight in the world is a two-man race, with Ring Magazine/WBO Interim Champion Joel Casamayor and IBF/WBA/WBO Champion Nate Campbell the two candidates of choice. However Diaz knows the June 28th fight in Las Vegas is a grand stage and what a win over the favored Pacquiao would do for his career. “This is a big event,” Diaz states. “I’ve been boxing since I was eight years old, so to be fighting a top guy like Manny Pacquiao, who is beating up everybody in every weight division going up…Now he wants to come to my weight division and beat me up. So we are going to have a little discussion about it on the 28th.”

When questioned about the fight with Pacquiao itself, Diaz clearly believes it will be nothing short of a toe-to-toe war. “These are the type of fights that should have the people revved up,” says Diaz. “Manny Pacquiao is a strong fighter, a guy who loves to get hit. If you’ve ever seen him get hit, he’s like ‘come on, yeah, give me more.’ So he is one of those type of fighters that you are like ‘I really need to go and meet this guy in the middle of the ring and see if he backs up.’ [The ring] is a twenty-footer, but I think we are going to cut it down to four-by-four, because that’s where we are going to stay,” proclaims Diaz. “We are going to stay right there and give the people what they came to see…a good throwback fight.”

After Diaz’ workout, Manny Pacquiao entered the West-Wind gym to a raucous ovation and chants of “Manny, Manny!” The crowd cheered and snapped endless amounts of photographs as he worked the mitts with trainer Freddie Roach. After the workout Pacquiao (46-3-2, 35 KOs) of General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines acknowledged the love he receives from the Filipino community every time he arrives in the Bay Area. “I wish I can fight here in San Francisco,” stated Pacquiao. “I’d love to come back here because there’s a lot of Filipinos who want to take a picture with me and have me sign autographs. I love them here because they are so nice.”

Pacquiao enters the Diaz fight coming off a razor-thin decision over Juan Manuel Marquez to win the WBC Super Featherweight title. Despite beginning his career at 106 pounds, and fighting as a super featherweight since 2005, Pacquiao does not seem to worried about the rise in weight. “I’m very confident in myself as I move up in weight,” declared Pacquiao. “It is hard to move up in weight, but I have to train hard to win every fight.” Pacquiao does realize that the higher he goes in weight class, the harder the punches will be. “I have to catch them and catch their punch because I am moving up in weight.”

A win over Diaz would give Pacquiao the WBC Lightweight title, marking the fifth weight class in which he would have held a title. With a victory, Pacquiao does not necessarily plan on staying in the lightweight division long, and has the current Ring Magazine Light Welterweight Champion on his wish list. “It depends on what Bob [Arum] plans. I can fight 130, 135, and 140,” says Pacquiao. “Like Bob said, we can fight [Ricky] Hatton after this fight. I maintain speed and power as I move up in weight.”

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach does not seem concerned at all with the rise in weight class. Not much has changed in preparation for the Diaz bout either. “The diet is a bit different, but work-wise, no,” states Roach on Manny’s first camp as a lightweight. “We changed one thing for this fight, since we are fighting a left-handed fighter. So the footwork is a bit different.”

Roach also addressed rumors that circulated the internet sites from the Philippines that Pacquiao was late arriving to camp or missing in action in his native country. “I know where he was in the Philippines and he came to America in good shape in plenty of time, so no worries,” declares Roach. “We are about 142 right now, so we have a bit to go, but I don’t want to have him to close this far out from the fight. He’s right where he needs to be.”

As is always the case at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, Pacquiao is getting top sparring with both accomplished and young professionals. Among the young upstarts in camp is light welterweight Christopher Rizo (3-0, 2 KOs) of East Los Angeles, California, a southpaw like Diaz. Rizo last fought in February, scoring an upset of previously unbeaten thirteen-fight veteran Christian Valverde. Young welterweight Gary McMillan (4-1-1, 1 KO) of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, is also in camp with Pacquiao. Among the more veteran sparring partners is Noel Rodriguez (13-2, 5 KOs) of McKinney, Texas. Rodriguez had won eight straight since his first pro loss, before a failed try at the NABF Light Welterweight title against highly regarded Francisco Figueroa in a competitive November bout. Among his recent wins is an eight-round decision over venerable veteran Robert Frankel and two wins over Joel Ortega, the first fighter to hand him a professional defeat.

Recognizable names in camp include Steve Quinonez and Roger “Speedy” Gonzalez. Quinonez (31-12-1, 10 KOs) of Palm Springs, California is a 14-year veteran who has been in with many of the top names in the sport, and often times the victim of dubious scoring. Gonzalez (27-1, 18 KOs) of Chino, California is a former WBO NABO Bantamweight Champion, with his sole professional loss coming at the hands of former WBO Bantamweight Champion Jhonny Gonzalez. “Speedy” is preparing for his own important fight, a June 18th date with Cornelius Lock in Sacramento, California. Roach is confident that Pacquiao will be well prepared after a camp with those fighters, “So he’s getting good work with those guys, a good run of southpaws, and he’s doing really well with them,” says Roach.

Promising super bantamweight Ana Julaton (3-0) of Daly City, California also took part in a public workout with trainer Freddie Roach before the Bay Area media and Filipino boxing fans. Julaton, an accomplished former amateur, has already impressed local media in her short professional career. Julaton has a busy scheduled planned for late June and early July, with two fights scheduled in ten calendar days. On June 26th at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California, she will meet ultra-tough Mayela Perez (7-6-1, 6 KOs) in a six-round bout. Just nine days later, Julaton is slated to meet fellow former amateur star Johana Mendez (2-0, 1 KO) on the Ricardo Torres-Kendall Holt undercard at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Promoter Bob Arum briefly discussed future Manny Pacquiao plans, should he be successful against David Diaz on June 28th. Sacramento and San Francisco are in the running to host Pacquiao’s next bout, due in part because of their Filipino populations. “We are looking at different places,” said Arum. “[Pacquiao] told me that he’d be ready to go again by the beginning of November.”

Tickets for the Pacquiao-Diaz event, promoted by Top Rank, are available online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling the Mandalay Bay box office at 702-474-4000.



 

 
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