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Diaz says he’s better prepared this time

10
Dec

Juan Diaz said he knows who won his first fight against Paulie Malignaggi in August in Diaz’s hometown of Houston — he did. He also knows that not everyone agrees with him.

That’s why the soft-spoken slugger agreed to fight Malignaggi again Saturday in Chicago, to remove any doubt that has lingered after he won a unanimous, but controversial decision in their first meeting. Diaz won by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and an outrageous 118-110 by judge Gale Van Hoy.

Malignaggi had predicted beforehand that he could never get a fair decision in Texas.

“I’m doing this for my fans,” Diaz told RingTV.com. “A lot of people are talking, some saying I won and some saying I didn’t. I just want to leave all controversy behind. I wanted to fight him in neutral territory, where no one can say anything when I beat him.

“I don’t want anyone to say it was the judges, the city or whatever. I want to win clearly.”

Malignaggi (26-3, 5 knockouts) surprised a lot of people with his performance — including his opponent.

Diaz (35-2, 17 KOs) expected to fight the Malignaggi who was stopped by Ricky Hatton less than a year earlier, the one who stood his ground more than he had earlier in his career. Instead, he fought the old Malignaggi, the one who danced away from trouble and scored from a distance.

The result was a very close fight, one in which Malignaggi seemed to build up a lead in the early rounds with the ever-charging Diaz rallying in the later rounds to close the gap.

This time, Diaz said he’ll be better prepared for his fleet-footed foe.

“If you’ve seen him fight, you know that that was one of his best performances in a few years,” said Diaz, referring to the first fight. “In his recent fights, he would stand and trade more than he used to. I prepared for that Maliginaggi, the one who fought (Miguel) Cotto and Hatton. I didn’t prepare for a Malignaggi who moved and gave me angles.

“That was my main problem. Now, I’ve adjusted. I’ve had nine weeks to prepare for this fight. I’m excited to get into the ring.”

The first Malignaggi fight was a comeback of sorts for Diaz, who was brutally knocked out in nine rounds by Juan Manuel Marquez in an unforgettable brawl and lost his titles by a split decision to Nate Campbell two fights earlier.

Diaz said he actually dreamed as a young fighter of one day being part of a war such as that in which Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera engaged three times. Well, it happened. Only he never imagined he would be the one laying flat on his back in the end.

It was the kind of knockout that can cause permanent damage, both physically and emotionally. Some even suggested Diaz might consider retirement at that time, at only 25, particularly because he’s a college graduate with post-boxing plans.

The thought of walking away never crossed Diaz’s mind, though. He said he loves it too much to give it up when he feels he’s still or near his physical peak.

“If anything, the loss (to Marquez) sparked a fire inside of me,” he said. “I remember saying to myself, ‘Man, I can’t believe I got stopped like that.’ I’m very competitive; I don’t like to lose. It just made me want to go back in there and show everybody I’m a winner.”

Diaz would like a rematch with Marquez, possibly next year. He’s confident things would turn out differently the second time with some minor changes in strategy. However, at the moment, he has to deal with Malignaggi.

The New Yorker, Diaz points out, is good boxer but a far cry from Marquez in terms of style. Malignaggi, especially this version, is content to outbox his opponent rather than put on a show for those who prefer action.

And that, Diaz said, isn’t necessarily good.

“He’s a boxer who I believe doesn’t like to get hit,” Diaz said of his opponent. “He likes to punch and move, not mix it up. That can be frustrating at times. And that’s one of the reasons MMA is becoming so popular. They put ’em in a cage and they go at it from Round 1.

“A lot of guys in boxing want to get paid and avoid all the punishment. Punishment comes with the territory. We’re paid to fight. I think that’s what we should do.”

It’ll be up to Diaz to chase Malignaggi down and deliver that punishment. If he can do it enough, he could silence those doubters.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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