Diaz's graduation a feel-good story for boxing

Your weekly random thoughts ...

&#8226; It's easy sometimes to get caught up in the bad news in boxing. This boxer was arrested. That boxer is punch-drunk and broke. And that one is in a contract dispute with a promoter he accuses of ripping him off. It does get old, which is why it's nice when we get to hear about a feel-good story such as Juan Diaz's.

The former lightweight titleholder has been one of the best fighters in the business for the past several years. He won his first world title from Lakva Sim at the tender age of 20 in 2004, then won unification fights against Acelino "Popo" Freitas and Julio Diaz in 2007 to earn three major belts before losing them to Nate Campbell in 2008.

All the while, Diaz, 25, was attending college part-time at the University of Houston-Downtown, working toward a degree with an eye toward life after boxing and the hope that one day he'll attend law school. Someday, he might even run for mayor of Houston.

On Sunday, Diaz (34-2, 17 KOs) will graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in political science at the university's commencement festivities at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

"This feels like I'm becoming a world champion for the first time; it's that big of an accomplishment to me," said Diaz, who studied and attended classes during the down time between his fights. "After going through school all of the years, it feels like a huge burden has [been] lifted off of my back. I'm going to take the rest of this year and next year to focus on boxing and see where it takes me, but I'm also going to take the LSAT review course and apply to law school so that I always have that as an option in the future."

Willie Savannah, Diaz's manager, has always supported Diaz's quest for his degree. Savannah has told me many times that had the juggling act between school and fighting gotten to be too much, he would have insisted Diaz drop boxing and focus on his studies.

"When Juan turned pro, he made it clear he wanted to go to college, and I insisted on it from the beginning," Savannah said. "I've always told him he could be whatever he wanted to be, and I'm more proud of him than words can express. He has never slacked off from school and has continued to excel in boxing and school, breaking records in both. I love him like he's my son and think it's really important for all boxers to learn from Juan and to earn a college education so they have a plan after boxing is over."


&#8226; I know middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik withdrew from a scheduled June 27 fight with Sergio Mora and Top Rank said it was because Pavlik had a staph infection on his hand. This week, Pavlik told his hometown newspaper, The Vindicator of Youngstown, Ohio, that his hand was fine, he was well enough to fight and he had signed his contract for the bout but Top Rank called off the fight anyway. Something is fishy here, big time. I've been around this business long enough to know that if something doesn't smell right, it's probably rotten. If you ask me, the fight being called off has way more to do with some sort of promotional contract dispute between Top Rank and Pavlik than it does with any sort of hand issue.

&#8226; If anyone is wondering why Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez have been steadily dropping in ESPN.com's monthly pound-for-pound rankings, it's simply because they haven't fought for more than a year. As much as I respect their abilities and accomplishments, no fighter has the right to remain on the pound-for-pound list indefinitely. You must fight to maintain your position. If they come back strong after their epic trilogy, which I sure hope they do, you can be sure they'll move back closer to the top.

&#8226; I think Juan Manuel Lopez is a win or two away from being on that pound-for-pound list.

&#8226; I wish Manny Pacquiao could fight every month.

&#8226; I read Thomas Hauser's outstanding piece on the Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight on www.secondsout.com and absolutely loved one of his anecdotes from Pacquiao's dressing room after he had knocked Hatton cold with one punch in the second round. Hauser wrote that someone handed Pacquiao a cell phone, which turned out to be a call from David Diaz. Pacquiao, of course, smashed Diaz to win a lightweight belt last summer, but they had become friendly during the promotion and have stayed in touch. According to Hauser, Diaz told Pacquiao, "I'm so happy. On all the advertisements for the fight, they've been showing me on television, lying face down on the canvas. Now they've got a better knockout to show." Pacquiao responded with laughter, saying, "Thank you, brother." That's great stuff.

&#8226; Let's suppose Amir Khan claims a junior welterweight belt from Andreas Kotelnik when they meet June 27. If that happens, how huge would a Khan-Hatton fight be in England? HUGE.

&#8226; I was more excited for Pacquiao-Hatton, but I'm looking forward to next week's Season 8 finale of "American Idol." Since the Fight Freaks ask for my predictions on everything, here's one for you: I'm going with Adam Lambert to win the title over Kris Allen. Lambert has been by far the best contestant all season, week in and week out. He's also my mom and my wife's favorite.

&#8226; Who else is psyched for the June 13 Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey fight? It's a terrific match on what should be a huge night for HBO, which will be in the midst of a free preview weekend (for those cable systems that elect to participate). Preceding the fight on the East Coast will be the television premier of the best of all the Batman films, the blockbuster "The Dark Knight." That all but guarantees a monster rating for the fight. If I weren't going to be ringside, you can be sure I'd be in front of the TV for both. (I loved "The Dark Knight.") Who do you like in Cotto versus The Joker?

&#8226; Here's one scenario I can see playing out: Cotto beats Clottey, Floyd Mayweather Jr. beats Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 and Cotto winds up fighting Pacquiao in the fall. Mayweather takes off the rest of the year (because he really doesn't want to fight Shane Mosley), then fights the Cotto-Pacquiao winner in early 2010. It could happen.

&#8226; Although the WBC insists heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko make a ridiculous mandatory defense against Oleg Maskaev, the Klitschko camp is fighting it. From what I'm told, Klitschko's people are so confident they'll win their case that they already have started negotiating a potential fall defense against Cristobal Arreola. Just food for thought.

&#8226; Roy Jones Jr. is behaving like a chicken with its head cut off. He's talking about this fight with Jeff Lacy, that rematch with Clinton Woods, going to Australia for a fight with Danny Green or maybe even facing one MMA fighter or another. It's really pretty sad. The bottom line is that Jones is out of big fights. Fighting on independent pay-per-view cards is an economic disaster, and the networks and American public simply no longer have any interest in a 40-year-old fighter who is, sadly, a million miles away from his best days.

&#8226; Apparently, Mikkel Kessler has taken Winky Wright's place on that milk carton.

&#8226; DVD pick of the week: As much as I love a good slugfest, I also can appreciate the art of the sweet science -- especially when the practitioners are among the greatest of all time. So I delved into the archive and went back 19 years ago this week to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. It was May 19, 1990, when an in-his-prime Pernell Whitaker outboxed another all-time great, Azumah Nelson, to win a clear unanimous decision and retain his unified lightweight belts one fight before becoming the undisputed 135-pound champion. Whitaker had a lot of big wins in his career, but I consider this one of his best. Nelson, who is enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame with Whitaker, was 32-1 at the time and the reigning junior lightweight champion. He hadn't lost in eight years -- having been defeated only on short notice by the great Salvador Sanchez in an epic featherweight championship fight -- but Whitaker dazzled against him.