Updated: July 30, 2010, 11:54 AM ET

Diaz sees Marquez bout as win-win situation

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Juan Diaz began his career by winning his first 33 fights and unifying three lightweight titles. Big stuff for a kid who wasn't even 25. He was making good money and climbing the pound-for-pound list after a string of impressive title defenses and exciting fights.

That was then. This is now.

Diaz still makes exciting fights, but some view him as close to washed up at age 26. He no longer has his belts and he is 2-3 in his past five fights. Take away a highly controversial win by decision against Paulie Malignaggi in their first fight last summer and Diaz's record very well could be 1-4 in his past five.

So Diaz is facing the cold reality that he badly needs a win to remain a main event player in big fights.

That is what the "Baby Bull" faces against lightweight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez in a rematch of the 2009 fight of the year on Saturday night (9 ET, HBO PPV, $49.95) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

"This is going to be a great fight," Marquez said. "It will definitely live up to the 'fight of the year' hype. I know Diaz is working hard and is going to do everything he can to avenge the knockout and regain the lightweight title. He has a lot to prove and I am going to do everything I can to defend my title."

Indeed, Diaz understands the importance of the fight, but he doesn't appear to be putting a lot of pressure on himself.

"I see this as a win-win situation for me, because this fight is going to prove to me whether I have it or I don't," Diaz said. "This fight right here is what's going to take me to the top and make me the superstar that I've been wanting to be in the lightweight division. But if it doesn't happen then that means it's not meant to be and I'll move on to bigger and better things, which could be start from the bottom and pick up the pieces to rebuild myself up or just completely do a 180 and just go in the opposite direction."

That direction could be to move on from boxing. Diaz, a recent college graduate, is studying for his law school entrance exam and plans to become a lawyer. He has always made his studies a priority and done well balancing them with boxing. Win or lose, Diaz, who also owns a construction business with younger brother Jose, has plans for the future that don't necessarily include boxing.

"This fight here, a lot of people have been mentioning to me that it's a do-or-die fight," Diaz said. "Well, I don't think it is a do-or-die fight. I think it's a win-win situation because either I become a world champion once again and become a superstar or it opens up doors for me to do other things and focus on other aspects of my life.

"I'm not going to close any doors, because I'm still a young fighter. If my plan is to continue fighting after this fight then that's exactly what I'm going to do. If it's not the best decision when I sit down and talk to my family and my managers and my promoter, if that's not the best thing to do then I'm not going to be stubborn. I'm smart enough. I have a college degree. I'm smart enough to know that I'm not going to be chasing a dream that's not going to come true again. I know when it's time to go and I know when it's time to stop."

Diaz (35-3, 17 KOs) was in his hometown of Houston when he and Marquez (50-5-1, 37 KOs) fought an epic battle in February 2009. Diaz sprinted to an early lead, but a nasty cut over his eye, carelessness on defense and veteran champion Marquez making adjustments led to a ninth-round knockout loss in a thrilling action fight.

It was named fight of the year by ESPN.com, Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America, and although both men moved on to other business -- Diaz splitting two fights at junior welterweight with Malignaggi and Marquez getting routed at welterweight by Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- it was such a great fight that Golden Boy put together the rematch back at their more effective weight.

"I'm 10 times more comfortable at 135 because at 140, the last fight we fought [against Malignaggi in December] I came in weighing 139 and then the night of the fight I stepped on the scales -- and that was with my shoes and my pants on -- and I was weighing 143. So that goes to show you that I don't gain too much weight. … I'm a pretty solid 135. At 140, I'm not that solid."

Marquez also feels more comfortable at lightweight. The move to welterweight as the hand-picked opponent for Mayweather in September was a business decision -- he was guaranteed his biggest payday, a $3.2 million purse plus a piece of the pay-per-view.

"At 147, I felt very heavy," said Marquez, 36. "Welterweight was just too much weight for me. I know that now.

"I am not worried about the drop in weight. I am feeling great. I feel stronger and faster. I definitely think this is my ideal weight."

Although Marquez won the first fight with Diaz by spectacular knockout, connecting with a brutal uppercut to end matters, he said he's not over confident.

"I'm not thinking of any way I can be different or do anything differently," he said. "I'm coming with everything. I'm not going to be overconfident because I've beaten him, because I've knocked him out. I'm going in just like as [if] it was the first fight,100 percent ready to take care of business.

"The first fight is in the past. Diaz could completely change his style for this fight."

Diaz making a drastic change is unlikely, but he said he wants to be more relaxed. In the first fight, he said the cheering throng of more than 14,000 in his hometown really pumped him up.

"This time I am going to be more relaxed," Diaz said. "I have already done this on a big world stage, so I know what it feels like. I am concentrating on what I am going to do in the fight. I need to outsmart him. I can't fight recklessly. I need to focus on what punches I throw.

"The first fight was my fight to win, and I didn't. When you leave something undone, it's a terrible feeling. I want nothing more than to be world champion again and I know what I need to do to get there."

Casamayor's last stand?

Chris Cozzone/Fightwireimages.com He might be 39, but that doesn't mean Joel Casamayor, left, is riding into the sunset quietly.

Joel Casamayor, the former lightweight and junior lightweight champion, is 39 and has fought just once since he lost the lineal lightweight title to Marquez via spectacular 11th-round knockout in September 2008. In his only bout since, Casamayor was career-heavy 146 pounds and had some struggles against journeyman Jason Davis in November.

But now Casamayor (37-4-1, 22 KOs) is back against a high-level opponent, former two-division titlist and fellow southpaw Robert Guerrero (26-1-1, 18 KOs), 28, to prove he's not done just yet when they meet in a junior welterweight bout on Saturday night's Marquez-Diaz II undercard.

Although Casamayor will only make $50,000, big chunks of which will go toward satisfying an IRS issue and court-ordered child support, he views the fight as an opportunity to put himself in position for a much bigger fight.

"You know Robert Guerrero is one of the best up and coming fighters in the world and it's a great opportunity to bring him to my den," Casamayor said. "If I beat Guerrero, I'm in line for anybody and I could fight any fight I would want. I've been pushing Golden Boy and my manager, Luis DeCubas [Jr.]., because I want a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez. I think by beating Robert Guerrero, I'll be in line for Juan Manuel Marquez or [junior welterweight titlist] Amir Khan or whoever it is, but that's the fight I'm hoping for and it's the reason I took this fight."

Casamayor, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist for Cuba, said although he would prefer to fight in the junior welterweight division, he would make lightweight if it was for a big fight.

"I'm at 140 pounds right now, but, as I said, if the opportunity opens itself at 135 pounds I could still probably make the weight," Casamayor said. "Whatever it takes to get Marquez back in the ring. Marquez is a great Mexican warrior. A lot of people have been asking for that rematch. It was a very, very close fight. I thought the fight was stopped unjustly, but I mean that's boxing. Basically, wherever [Golden Boy's] Richard [Schaefer] tells me there's a great opportunity at '35 or '40, whichever it is, I'm there."

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