Everyone seems to think that boxing needs a savior. Some folks think the U.S. could use one too. Unbeaten lightweight Juan Diaz hopes to oblige them all.
Born in this country to Mexican immigrants, the 23-year-old Diaz has built an impressive ring résumé. He's 32-0 (16 KOs) and owns the WBO and WBA titles. And since besting Brazilian star Acelino Freitas (38-1 at the time) in April, Diaz has crept onto top pound-for-pound lists. "He's the type of fighter you'll pay to see," says HBO's Max Kellerman. "It's guaranteed excellent for the fans every time."
But unifying the 135-pound division is nothing compared with Diaz's long-term goal: to unify divisions within the United States. Currently a junior majoring in political science at the U. of Houston, Baby Bull plans to go to law school, retire from boxing by 28 and then delve into politics.
Diaz is outspoken in his support of presidential hopeful Barack Obama. He was a fan of the recently failed immigration bill but opposes the Iraq war. So what does he think of President Bush? "Individuals are unique," Diaz says diplomatically. "You can disagree with them on some issues but agree on others."
These days, Diaz is focused more on boxing than on Capitol Hill. He's booking an August bout with IBF titleholder Julio Diaz and hopes for a crack at Joel Casamayor, the champ in the eyes of The Ring. After that, he'll worry about government reform.
"I want to be in the history books," Diaz says. "I hope people say, 'He was a great fighter and one of the few to get an education.' I want to give boxing a good name."
Spoken like a true politician.
Mason Lerner is a contributor to ESPN The Magazine.