Juan Diaz signs deal with Top Rank

Former unified lightweight titleholder Juan Diaz, who is 2-0 after ending a 2½-year retirement in April, will return Oct. 19, his first bout under a new promotional deal he signed this week with Top Rank.

Diaz (37-4, 19 KOs) -- known as "The Baby Bull" -- will face Denver's Juan Santiago (14-10-1, 8 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Colo., on the Mike Alvarado-Ruslan Provodnikov junior welterweight title fight undercard.

Diaz told ESPN.com that he signed an 18-month, six-fight deal with Top Rank, mainly because of his close relationship with company vice president Carl Moretti, who had worked with Diaz during the early part of his career when they were both with Main Events.

"I've known Carl for a long time, since the Main Events days [in the early 2000s], and it kind of made it easier for me to have more trust in Top Rank since I dealt with Carl before," Diaz told ESPN.com. "I generally think the conversations I've had with Carl are genuine, and I believe he and Top Rank want the best for my career, so we signed the deal and I'm looking forward to being with them."

Diaz said Golden Boy, his former promoter, was also interested but he picked Top Rank because of the relationship with Moretti and because he felt like Golden Boy wanted to push him a little more quickly than he felt comfortable going.

Diaz, 30, of Houston, retired after losing a lightweight world title fight in a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez in July 2010. Although he is the owner of a successful trucking business in Houston and is a college graduate, Diaz was still hungry for boxing and ended his retirement in April by knocking out Pipino Cuevas Jr. in the sixth round on a card promoted by Golden Boy, whom Diaz had been with from 2008 until his retirement.

Then Diaz, a free agent, stopped Adailton De Jesus in the fifth round Aug. 17 on a Top Rank card, although they were working together on a one-off basis. However, they made their union more permanent this week.

"Juan and his team are great people to work with, and together we have a strategy that will bring Juan to the top of the [lightweight] division once again," Moretti said. "Juan Diaz is still one of the most recognizable names to all boxing fans because of his fan-friendly style and the positive manner in which he carries himself in and out of the ring.

"What's there not to like about him and the excitement he creates? For Top Rank, this was no-brainer to be involved with Juan and his career."

Diaz said that after the Oct. 19 fight, he probably will have one more tuneup bout and then the plan is for him to step up against a top-10 contender in early 2014.

"They're just waiting to see what guys are available for me to challenge," Diaz said. "Top Rank already promised me a title shot next year. Whether it be the summer or the end of next year, I know I'll get that title shot, which put the exclamation point on everything, so I said, 'Let's do it,' and I signed.

"I'm a realist. I know that I have a good name in boxing, but I'm not Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. I can't be a free agent for the rest of my fighting career. I knew I'd have to settle down with one promoter and let them help me in my road to becoming a champion again."

Diaz won a 135-pound world title in 2004 and made seven defenses, including unifying three of the major belts, before losing to Nate Campbell via split decision in 2008. Including the loss to Campbell, Diaz slumped to 2-4 in a six-fight span, and retired after losing back-to-back fights in rematches with Paulie Malignaggi and Marquez.