Returning Diaz ready to dazzle
Juan Diaz announced his retirement from boxing in 2011 to concentrate on completing his studies towards a law degree, but insists the time is now right to lace back on the gloves.
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Still a surprisingly young 29, the former unified world lightweight champion will fight for the first time in more than two years on Saturday night when he faces Brazilian Adailton De Jesus in Laredo, Texas.
The always-likeable Diaz, nicknamed 'Baby Bull', believes he still has what it takes to regain his former world crown, which he lost to Nate Campbell in a surprise split decision loss in 2008.
Diaz's defeat to the veteran Campbell was the first of his career and came at a moment when he stood on the cusp of the pay-per-view big time, but instead was destined to mark the start of a slow decline.
A stunning, fight-of-the-year bout against Juan Manuel Marquez in February 2009 was ended by ninth round stoppage, and a second defeat to Marquez followed a share of two bouts against Paulie Malignaggi.
After his second loss to Marquez, Diaz declared his intention to quit the sport to concentrate on his studies. Although he maintained a high profile in the media, it seemed unlikely he would be tempted to return.
But like so many well-intentioned foes before him, Diaz found the lure of the fight game too strong to resist. He returned in April this year with a sixth round win over Pipino Cuevas Jr in Corpus Christie.
Next up is De Jesus, a fighter who has lost all seven of his previous bouts outside Brazil, and has built his 30-7 record mostly against fighters of the calibre of Denis De Barros, a 14-15-1 loser whom he stopped in one round last time out.
Diaz might have a long way to go, but he is convinced he can claw his way back to the top of his sport and belatedly claim the big pay-per-view contests he believes he was denied when he was at his peak.
"So far things are going according to plan," Diaz told ESPN. "The ideal situation is I would love to fight two more times this year, August 17 and then another one and then start 2014 fast - fight a top contender or a world champion.
"I want to become a lightweight world champion once again but that is not my end goal. I feel a little older, a little stronger, so in the future give it another shot at 140lbs. But I know I have to prove myself again."
Diaz certainly should not be short of options in the congested mid-weight range he inhabits, and a possible rematch with namesake Julio Diaz, whom he stopped in 2007 and subsequently went on to give Amir Khan a scare, could be on the cards.
Either way the sport will applaud yet regret the return of a smart, eloquent fighter whom we must have hoped had enough going for him outside the ring to resist that age-old temptation to give unlikely glory one last shot.