During his peak days as a fighter, Coachella’s Antonio Diaz was a treat to watch and he was able to carve out a respectable career that saw him grace HBO’s airwaves on multiple occasions while also twice challenging for portions of the welterweight title.
Those ill-fated attempts at championship glory came against Shane Mosley in November of 2000 in New York and later versus Antonio Margarito in March of 2002 at Bally’s in Las Vegas. Diaz was overwhelmed by Mosley’s speed, succumbing after six one-side rounds, and although he gave a much better account of himself vs. Margarito, he was eventually broken down by the Tijuana fighter in the tenth round of a barnburner.
Those heartbreaks aside, Diaz left an impression because of his fan-friendly style that helped him carve out wins over the respected and gritty Philadelphia Ivan Robinson as well as the beloved Micky Ward.
Now 36 years old, Diaz has a different outlook on the sport, as he is making the transition to full-time training as he looks to help out fledgling talent in his area. In late April I crossed paths with Antonio inside of the Indio Boys and Girls Club in Indio as he watched on while his older brother Joel guided Tim Bradley in training ahead of the biggest fight of his life against Manny Pacquiao.
An underdog heading into his duel with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Bradley had some serious trouble in the first half of the fight as the Filipino stalwart’s speed and unorthodox attack from various angles seemed to throw him off. And despite digging down and offering up a spirited effort in the late rounds, the general consensus was that Bradley hadn’t done quite enough to warrant the victory despite his noble effort.
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Taking some time to break down the fight and its aftermath, Diaz revealed to me why he agreed with two of the three judges who awarded Bradley his split-decision victory.
“You know what? I thought it was a great fight,” Diaz told me recently from the Fantasy Springs Casino and Resort. “I really think, the way I scored the fight when I was watching it, I scored it just the way they gave it, 115-112 to Bradley. There were some rounds, Pacquiao wasn’t doing anything. Timothy took advantage by using his jab and movement and his left hook. He was controlling the fight and you’ve got to give him those rounds.”
As far as the general public overwhelmingly favoring Pacquiao, Diaz revealed that the HBO commentating crew of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, and Emanuel Steward likely had something to do with it.
“I went back and watched the fight on TV, there were rounds where they were giving to Pacquiao but it was because of what the commentators were saying,” said Diaz. “The commentators influence a lot on what happens in the fight to the fans. I think Bradley pulled out the fight and I think it was a great fight.”
Bradley entered the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair, with reports later stating that the Palm Springs native suffered a fractured left foot and a twisted right ankle during the bout. Asked if he felt that those injuries slowed Tim down, Diaz seemed to buy that theory.
“I think so,” said Diaz. “Because I saw, after he hurt his feet in the middle rounds, he was too flat. Then, towards the end of the fight, the last four, five rounds, those are the rounds I gave Bradley. I gave Bradley the first two rounds and the last five. And that’s when he sucked it up and used his movement and tagged Pacquiao with jabs, left hooks, right hands, and Pacquiao wasn’t doing anything.”
There has been a somber mood coming from Bradley and Joel Diaz in the wake of his controversial victory. Diaz mentioned that it was practically impossible to enjoy the moment because of all the backlash, even pointing to death threats he has received, and Bradley has also taken on a less-than-enthusiastic approach to the remainder of his career because of the negativity surrounding the match.
Asked whether or not he thinks his brother and Bradley will bounce back, Diaz seems encouraged by what their future holds and even points out that there may be some unfinished business with Pacquiao at some point.
“I’m pretty sure that they will, both of them,” said Diaz. “They’re pretty strong-minded. They’re not going to let all those bad critics get to them. It was a bad thing for people. Everybody wanted Pacquiao to win, of course. They wanted to see the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. There’s also a rematch there. If the rematch happens, let’s see what happens. It was a great fight; I thought Tim Bradley pulled out the victory.”
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Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at Trimond@aol.com, www.Twitter.com/CRHarmony, and www.Youtube.com/CRHarmony