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Boxer David Diaz eases up on the relaxing

BILL DWYRE

He relished his downtime after losing to Manny Pacquiao in June 2008, and ended up having knee surgery. But now he’s back in shape and will fight Humberto Soto in main undercard match.

March 11, 2010|Bill Dwyre

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — It was June 2008, and David Diaz did what any self-respecting person would have done after being pummeled in public by boxing star Manny Pacquiao. Diaz, the pride of Chicago boxing, went home to the North Side and sat on the couch.

As a matter of fact, he sat so much, in the months following his ninth-round technical knockout by Pacquiao at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Events Center, that Diaz eventually ballooned up from his 135-pound fight weight to 190.

For awhile, his story could have been headlined: From Canvas to Couch.

"I was OK when I got back home," Diaz said Thursday. "Sure, my ego got hurt a little, but it wasn't like I lost to some bum. I was in the gym a week later, but my people were telling me to relax, take some time off. No need to get right back to the training."

So he did, and it was while he was relaxing on the couch one day, laptop open, that it happened.

"I just brought my left knee up to my lap and something popped," he said. "The pain was excruciating."

He can laugh about it now, and does. He has a chance to return to title prominence Saturday night, facing off against Mexico's Humberto Soto in the massive Cowboys Stadium. His fight, for the WBC lightweight title he lost to Pacquiao, will be the main undercard match on the Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey card. A crowd of 45,000, one of boxing's biggest ever, is expected.

Coincidentally, on the undercard the night Diaz lost to Pacquiao was a controversial match between Soto and Francisco Lorenzo. Soto knocked Lorenzo down in the fourth round, and apparently out. But referee Joe Cortez ruled that Soto had hit Lorenzo on the way down and gave the fight to Lorenzo. Later, the WBC would reverse that decision and Soto would fight Lorenzo again and win.

Since that June 28, 2008, night, Soto has fought six times and Diaz once.

Blame that inactivity, at least partially, on the dreaded couch.

"I'm kind of a macho guy, so no, I didn't go to the doctor right away," Diaz said. "But when we had a block party a few months later and I had to put on a brace to play volleyball, I knew that wasn't good."

Diaz said he eventually went to a doctor, had arthroscopic surgery on it, and felt fine.

"I was walking around on it the next day," he said. "Nothing to it. All fixed."

He was told to do therapy on it, but he didn't. He got busy. Pacquiao called in December and invited him to his birthday party in the Philippines. He went, stayed a week and came back home to a snowstorm.

"I was outside, shoveling," he said, "and one on my little kids came running out of the house, buck naked, and so I took off chasing and I felt my knee go pop. I thought, ‘uh-oh.' "

Diaz went to the doctor, who asked whether he had been doing his rehab therapy. When Diaz fessed up, the doctor said he had only torn a bit of scar tissue and sent him out to get his knee, and the rest of him, in shape. The result is Saturday night's prime undercard spot, and a chance for another main event down the road.

Diaz is 33. He says he has about two years left in boxing.

He also knows it has been a good ride. He had a 78-16 record as an amateur fighter, won the Chicago Golden Gloves four times and the National Golden Gloves three. He boxed for his country in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The sport hasn't made him super rich, but he has done well, especially the $800,000 payday for the Pacquiao fight.

"I've got three kids, and I want them all to go to college," he said. "Uncle Sam had his hand out fast after the Pacquiao fight. It went fast. I have some work left to do to set things up better for my family."

Diaz was his usual outgoing, personable self at Thursday's news conference for the fight undercard. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum introduced him as the main reason the Pacquiao-Clottey fight was even taking place. Diaz had risked his title back in June 2008, while giving Pacquiao a chance to show he could fight bigger boxers. Since he beat Diaz, Pacquiao has also defeated Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, all considered, before the Diaz fight, too big and too untouchable for Pacquiao.

Diaz took the podium from Arum and agreed, with tongue in cheek, that his fight with Pacquiao had been significant.

"I guess Manny has done OK for himself since then," Diaz said.

He also said that he and Soto, while friends, won't hold back.

"We get to see how hard we can hit each other," Diaz said. "We might just steal the show."

Until then, Diaz's handlers are doing their best to keep him ready and out of harm's way.

Which means no sitting on couches.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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