I loved working with Roger Mayweather because of his attitude. He was a fighter, a real fighter. He didn’t like the mitts, didn’t like the heavy bag, he just wanted to get in there and fight. He had the attitude and mentality of Mexican fighters.
By Bill Tibbs
As a trainer and cut man, Miguel Diaz is considered one of boxing’s very best. He has worked with numerous world champions, has cornered some of the very best fighters in boxing and has long garnered the respect of everyone in the sport. Now is his 80’s, Diaz is still working with fighters and has had a ringside view from sweaty gyms to championship fights on boxing’s biggest stages. Maxboxing caught up with Diaz, at his home in Las Vegas, to chat and get his take on the game, past and present.
Bill Tibbs: Hello Miguel, how are you doing?
Miguel Diaz: Good Bill, good, nice to talking with you.
BT: You did some boxing as a young man but then went into training. Did you always want to be a trainer?
MD: No. I never thought I’d be a trainer in boxing. My father was a boxer, trainer, promoter, he did lots in
boxing, but he didn’t want me to be a boxer. I never really started into boxing until I came to Las Vegas. When I first came to the United States, to L.A. in 1965, I was playing soccer. But I always loved boxing. Two weeks after I arrived in Los Angeles, I was watching fights at the old Olympic Auditorium. But eventually I got to Las Vegas and got into boxing and it became my life. Boxing and horses (laughs). I am watching the horses right now.
BT: It is very hard to compare eras, but for someone who seen great fighters over the decades, and worked with many of them, can you compare fighters from the past to today’s fighters?
MD: It is very hard to compare eras in boxing because in many ways the sport is so different. Back in the old days you didn’t even talk to another trainer’s fighter. Trainers were very strict and disciplined with their fighters. Now it is much more social of a sport if you know what I mean. It is hard to compare eras. But, there are certain fighters in this era that you look at and you can say that they would have been able to fight in any era – fighters like James Toney, Mayweather jr., Lomachenko, Terence Crawford, guys like that.
BT: Manny Pacquiao, a long-time Top Rank fighter from the past, is one of my all-time favorites. He is still going strong. What are your thoughts on Manny?
MD: A great fighter and a great person; an exceptional person. I spoke about modern day fighters that could fight in any time in the history of boxing, well, Manny Pacquiao is one of them. Manny is a fantastic fighter, but he is also a fantastic human being.
BT: For the Corrales/Mayweather Jr. fight you went with Corrales? You were working with both, but you went with Corrales. Was that a hard decision?
MD: I was training Corrales but I was just the cut man for Mayweather; I wasn’t training him. Actually, for that bout, Diego’s father, who is a wonderful man, was the head trainer. I was working with him, helping him train Diego.
BT: Did you think he was going to win? And, did you think by choosing Corrales it would cost you your job in the Mayweather camp.
MD: Of course I thought he would win. I felt in my heart he would win the fight. Yes, I assumed that was the case with the Mayweather camp if I chose to work with Corrales.
BT: Were you surprised the way that the fight went?
MD: There was something that took place a week before the fight that changed everything. It doesn’t matter to talk about it now, but something happened a week before the bout that changed everything. When the fight was stopped, that was me. It was actually me that told his father to stop the fight. I said, ‘You’ve gotta stop this fight’. Diego was very mad that the fight was stopped but it was the right thing to do at the time.
BT: What key element do you look for in a fighter that they must have if they have a shot at making it to the world title level?
MD: The must have the mentality of a fighter. I would say boxing is about 80% mental. Everyone thinks fighting is balls (laughs) but it is up here, in the head, it is the brains that make a fighter. You have to have the mental make-up of a fighter if you want to be able to compete with the best. Boxing is a very tough sport and you have to be able to handle the mental part of boxing. I have seen many fighters that are great in the gym, but when the bell goes in a real, live fight, things change. There are many good gym fighters but to able to do everything you work in the gym in a real fight, under the pressure of a real fight, that is where the mental strength will come in.
BT: What was the toughest fight you have been involved with?
MD: When Robert Quiroga defended his title in 1991 against a fighter I was working with, named “Kid” Akeem, that fight was an incredible war. These two guys Bill, you can’t believe the punches they were trading. Sadly, both fighters are no longer with us. But, that fight, which was the last fight with 6-ounce gloves by the way, was a war. It was the ‘fight of the Year’ that year.
BT: Who was your favorite fighter to work with?
MD: There have been many fighters. I loved working with Roger Mayweather because of his attitude. He was a fighter, a real fighter. He didn’t like the mitts, didn’t like the heavy bag, he just wanted to get in there and fight. He had the attitude and mentality of Mexican fighters. James Toney was a great, great fighter and a pleasure to work with. There have been many, many fighters I have enjoyed working with over the years.
BT: What fighter have you worked with that you felt never achieved what he should, or could have?
MD: A fighter that comes to mind is a guy I worked with named Israel Cole. He was from Sierra Leone. He was so talented. People would come into the gym, and people would assume he was a world champion because he could outbox anyone in the gym. He had so much talent, he had so much natural talent. But, we talked about the mentality of a fighter; he didn’t have that. When that bell rang in a real fight, things changed, and he couldn’t do what he did in the gym. A great gym fighter, but he couldn’t do it when it really mattered. But, it is too bad because he had a lot of talent.
BT: Hardest puncher?
MD: Roger Mayweather had a tremendous right hand. After Tommy Hearns’ right, at that time, Roger had a very hard right.
BT: Best pure boxer?
MD: The best boxer, for defense in boxing, I’d have to say Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Wilfred Benitez.
BT: Can you name your greatest memory in boxing? Or, are there too many to name just one?
MD: I have to say that having my first world champion from Argentina - his name was Pedro Decima. I live in the United States and I’m a citizen here, but I am from Argentina, (laughs), so naturally my first world champion from home was very special. When Pedro won the title that was very special for me.
BT: Thanks for the chat Miguel, always great to talk, and we’ll hopefully see you down the road when travel opens up again.
MD: Thank you Bill, anytime my friend.