LAS VEGAS -- Juan Diaz is a 3-1 underdog for his rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, but the Houston fighter employs unimpeachable logic to argue that he will be victorious.
"The last couple of years, my boxing career was a roller coaster ride," the former lightweight titlist said at the final prefight news conference in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay on Wednesday.
There was his first career loss, a split decision defeat to Nate Campbell in March 2008, followed by a win over Michael Katsidis six months later; a February 2009 defeat to Marquez; a disputed win over Paulie Malignaggi last August; and a lopsided defeat to Malignaggi in December.
"It makes sense that I'm going to win on Saturday night," he said. "I lost my last fight, so this time I'm going to win."
More seriously, Diaz is grounding his optimism in something more solid than the law of averages.
"We went back to the drawing board, tweaked a little bit," said Diaz trainer Ronnie Shields, suggesting that his charge would adopt a different strategy than the first time the two met in the ring. Then, Diaz swarmed all over Marquez in the early going, pressing him to the ropes and forcing a fast pace until the Mexican began to time him with hard counter punches before dropping Diaz for the count in the ninth.
In conversation, Marquez marveled that Diaz had been "so fast" on that night, but Diaz himself offered a less than glowing appraisal of his performance.
"I fought like an amateur," he said. "I kept leaning over, falling over, squaring up, giving Marquez an easy target. But this time around, I'm going to be more professional about it. I'm going to apply pressure, but smart pressure, make sure that I have my defense, and throw the correct punches."
But, he conceded, "I have my Plan A, I have my Plan B, but if it's not working, I know how to fight. I know what to do. That's what I love to do."
And, for all Diaz promises less straight-forward aggression, he is not, unlike his opponent, renowned for his ring guile. The difficulty he faces in changing his tactics was highlighted, ironically, by the praise being heaped upon him Wednesday by friend and foe alike.
The Boxing Writers Association of America adjudged the first Marquez-Diaz contest to be the Fight of the Year, and the two men belatedly received their statuettes from promoter Oscar De La Hoya on Wednesday. But, said Diaz manager Willie Savannah about the tendency of his boxer (who is also training to be a lawyer) to engage in brawls: "I don't like all these Fight of the Year type fights because they take a lot out of you. I don't want him standing in front of the judge one day and turning to his client and saying, 'Son, what did you say your name is?'"
But Diaz is not a man to retreat in the face of an in-ring challenge. "Diaz has a big heart," De La Hoya said. "He has a tremendous heart. You can never count out Juan Diaz. He knows how to fight hard, he can be down and out and he'll come back to win."
Diaz described himself as "100 percent warrior." Marquez trainer Nacho Beristain went one step farther, calling his fighter's opponent not just a warrior but "a great warrior."
That has helped make Diaz a popular fighter. But Diaz knows more than anybody it'll take more than that to overturn his earlier defeat to Marquez.
"The key is to be as smart as Marquez is in that ring," he said. "I have to think every second of that fight in order to be successful."