(Juan Santiago, left, Juan Diaz, right; credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
Juan Diaz once fought like a swarm of angry bees. Unable to hurt anyone with a single punch, he came forward relentlessly and stung as many times as possible. Few can forget the look of utter despair on Acelino Freitas’ face when he quit on his stool after being swarmed, stung, and battered by Diaz in an increasingly one sided fight. Even fewer can forget him giving Juan Manuel Marquez hell in their first fight, at least until Marquez found his timing and range and roared back to stop the Baby Bull.
That fighter is gone, as is so often the case with swarming pressure fighters. They burn out young.
In the third fight of his comeback after a nearly three year retirement, Diaz (38-4, 19 KO) won a unanimous decision over Denver junior welterweight Juan Santiago (14-11-1, 8 KO) by scores of 97-93, 99-91, and 100-90. I scored the fight 100-89 with the 6th round 10-8, as Diaz battered Santiago all over the ring.
For some stretches, Diaz looked like his old self. He swarmed and landed good shots, however, unlike his previous form, he would stop punching when Santiago returned fire. His footwork also looked off and his head and body movement seemed robotic. Never hard to find, Diaz took some shots he shouldn’t have
It could be that he was simply trying to get rounds in and work on defense, timing, and his endurance. I hope that’s the case, because Santiago has been stopped five times, including by Eloy Perez and Archie Ray Marquez. The brightest spot on his record is a split decision with Vernon Paris in 2010. I’m not sure if that’s a credit to Santiago or evidence of Paris’ limitations.
All that being said, Diaz did what he was supposed to do. He won. But where does he go from here?
A win over a fighter like Santiago proves nothing. Diaz stated pre-fight his intention is to fight for a “title” next year. The myriad titles currently in existence make that a possibility (Allan Green just fought for a title for chrissakes), and the Lightweight division is not very deep, but Diaz would get crushed by Omar Figueroa (or anyone within sniffing distance of the top of the division).
Earlier on the card, Denver area welterweights Daniel Calzada (9-9-2, 2 KO) and Carlos Marquez (4-2, 1 KO) squared off in an entertaining bout that featured plenty of momentum swings and action. The fight was very close and difficult to score. The judges’ tallies of 57-57, 59-55, & 58-56 gave Calzada the majority decision and local bragging rights. I scored it 58-56 for Marquez, favoring his cleaner shots, but Calzada did press the action.
Acelino Freitas’ nephew Vitor Jones de Oliveira (1-0, 1 KO) stopped Martin Quezada (2-8, 2 KO) in the 2nd round of a thoroughly one sided junior lightweight fight. Quezada has now lost seven straight, five by stoppage. Oliveira started the fight by jumping all over his overmatched opponent and did not relent. He put Quezada down twice from body shots in the 2nd round before Quezada took a knee and the referee called a halt to it. Oliveira is quick and fluid, and if he’s anywhere near as good as his uncle, he may have a good career ahead of him.
The first fight of the streaming undercard featured another Denver fighter in junior lightweight David Escamilla (3-0, 1 KO) who took a unanimous decision over New Mexican Jair Quintero (2-1, 0 KO). It was an entertaining bout, but not difficult to score. Escamilla pressed the fight throughout and Quintero’s counters largely missed or were ineffective.
Top Rank did an excellent job filling the card with local fighters, and the crowd was great throughout. Denver certainly has its fair share of fight fans.