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The Middle Man

ROBERTO Diaz left Golden Boy Promotions, as one of the best fighters in the world, for a long time he was very important to their success. During what may be a defining moment in their short promotional history, his influence is perhaps still felt. Written by Declan Warrington.

The fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and John Ryder, in Guadalajara on Cinco de Mayo weekend last year, came a few weeks ago. Roberto Diaz he had suffered a heart attack, and yet the venerable producer was watching — watching, and watching — and had traveled from Los Angeles to be there.

He was joined there by his wife Carla, who has long worked for the world's best striker. Weeks later he watched from afar as Jaime Munguia tipped Sergiy Derevyanchenko again with some interest, as he was also a major contributor to Munguia's career prior to Diaz's departure from Golden Boy Promotions in early 2023.

Throughout his 15 years with Golden Boy, he was recognized as one of the best partners in the world, and a key figure in a promotional organization that was long considered the most powerful in the world. Ryan Garcia's recent victory over Devin Haney boosted their interests even more than the possibility of Nukulunia defeating Alvarez or Vergil Ortiz Jnr beating Tim Tszyu, but still they may not regain the heights reached before, when the big fights and the presence of -Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and others gave them this appeal.

It was Diaz, through his long association with Marco Antonio Barrera, who before joining Golden Boy, put Hatton in touch with De La Hoya and De La Hoya's partner at the time, Richard Schaefer, ensured that Hatton's fight with Floyd Mayweather was made. . Mayweather, at the time, had defeated De La Hoya in another Golden Boy promotion; The two biggest fights of 2007 were finally theirs.

List organization: Marco Antonio Barrera (Stephanie Trapp/TGB)

If it was Barrera's where Golden Boy and other fighters first became aware of Diaz, it's since his split with the Mexican that his reputation has grown. Like Barrera – and De La Hoya, Hopkins and Schaefer – he may no longer be as influential, but like many others who worked with him or against him, he will forever know how much he was responsible for so many great fights.

To read the full picture of Diaz's 55 years is to read a lifetime before his meeting with Barrera. In the context of the culture of gangs in San Francisco, where he was born, and his father forced him to move to the Yucatan region of Mexico where it was more than him; for his activities as a salesman and as a parole officer; of life-threatening car crashes and a successful battle against cancer that saved his marriage because of the commitment Carla continued to show him when they had previously decided that they should divorce.

Perhaps it is for those reasons that the perception that Diaz has gained – his latest health scare following his departure from Golden Boy – is so negative. According to him, there were times when his family was neglected while he was pursuing what he described as his “dream”. Perhaps the demands of his job and the rate at which Golden Boy was growing meant it was the only way it could be.

He says: “That's what I learned after 15 years of separation Debate News at his home in LA. “Another message is the first about your life; the second is your family, the third is your job, because your job will always be there as long as it needs you. Family should be there.

“I don't want it to sound like I'm sorry, because it made me where I am and who I am today, but you have to give your family that importance, and there were times – 'I'm sorry; I won't be able to succeed in that' – because work comes first. There was a [Barrera] to fight. I was in the camp. My father [Roberto] he had been ill for 30 years. They depend on me – I have to be here.' 'Man, I should be leaving – when the war is over I'll be out.' He passed away on the morning of the war. One day, maybe I would have seen him. Marco – his whole family – everyone knew. Marco gets cut, so after the fight I rush him in for stitches. We return to the hotel. The pool is reserved for the party. Everyone has a long face. I turn around, Carla crying. 'Dad's dead, huh?' Looking back, work always came first. “

Barrera's faith in Diaz – first following their meeting in a mall in San Diego, where Diaz lived at the time, and when he fought Cesar Najera in Fantasy Springs – led to an invitation to join his training camp in Big Bear, California, for him he will never forget. first fight with Erik Morales. Diaz's commitment did not have an impact on the fact that later on he had a big impact during the third fight of their trilogy – Barrera got his second victory over his main rival – Diaz's reputation is growing, and finally the request to be Eric Gomez's assistant.

“In the trials I worked a week and rested a week, so I would go up for a few days and spend them in the camp; run with them; eat them,” he remembers. “Finally, being a fan; friend, [Barrera] he says, 'Why don't you enter my next battle with the flag?'. They went on to have an amazing trilogy.

“'I will sign with Oscar De La Hoya; Golden Boy Promotions.' Golden Boy was just getting started; [outside of De La Hoya] Marco was their biggest name. 'We have our first fight, against Manny Pacquiao.' We're in Big Bear, and what I saw was a fast, young fighter who had a lot of trouble with the jab. Marco had a good jab – a power jab, because he's a converted southpaw. 'I don't see anything better than Naseem Hamed. Naseem was strange; more boxing.' Fast forward, fame salary, amazing fighter – amazing fighter – and something that comes once every 100 years. But at that time he did not seem to be anything special.

“You've lost this fight, and I think 'It's over'. Oscar didn't cut him off; Golden Boy didn't cut it. Bring him back. From then on, it was me. I saw Erik Morales have two of his toughest fights the following year and I said, 'Marco, you need to fight the third fight now'. I didn't hesitate in that fight. That win put Golden Boy on the map.

“To go backwards, most fans will tell you [Juan Manuel] Marquez was in the lead, maybe they will say Barrera, because he beat Morales twice, he was second, and Morales was third. Although the results speak for themselves, I would almost say Morales was number one, Marco number two, and Marquez number three.

“Remember, I'm with Marco. 'Let's call it a day.' He is a partner at Golden Boy. 'Let's focus on promotion and raising children.' He had other plans [he again fought, and lost to, Pacquiao in 2007]. That's the fighter he always is.”

It began a decade and a half of great change with Golden Boy – and the evolution of the promoter's reputation from working with established champions to directing them from scratch. Diaz moved to LA from Sacramento, where his family remained, to accept an offer to work with Gomez, but considered quitting after each of the first two promotions he oversaw.

“Oh my God,” he said. “They expand; from one day to the next, and that's why it was like a crash course. You will sink or swim. Bernard Hopkins batting [Kelly] Pavlik; it was an amazing time. Everyone wanted to have a Golden Boy. Golden Boy knocked before I arrived that if you were a star, already made, that's where you come back. 'But don't go as a young person, because they can't build fighters.' They had Mosley; Hopkins; Marquez; Barrera; established fighters, perhaps close to retirement, but had never produced a world champion. That knock, a few years later with enough time and growth, was gone, because of Abner Mares; [Daniel] Ponce de Leon; Danny Garcia; Adrien Broner; Deontay Wilder; [Jermell] Charles. That knock went away quickly. I am proud of it, because I started many of their jobs. I did about 99 percent of Wilder's fights.

“Don't think it was all gravy – I remember a nasty email coming in accusing me of losing Victor Ortiz. [Marcos] Maidana. That's when I learned that you have to have a thick skin. If they win, it becomes a fighter; the group; promoter; never a searcher. If they lose, it becomes a sculptor. It was very difficult; pleasure. But it's not for the average Joe. There were times when there were three shows in a weekend. At that time we were very busy.

“Richard has done an excellent job. When I look back I see maybe what Richard saw at that time. Maybe I didn't see it clearly. 'Maybe that's what he saw that he didn't like.' But I don't think that Richard and Oscar parting ways is why the company changed. The Yankees had a time when they were the best team. It is part of evolution; it's part of growing up. It happens in boxing a lot.

“There is no plan that goes well – there is always something that goes wrong. You have to get on with the program.”

Richard Schaefer

“Richard [Schaefer] he did a good job,” said Diaz. (Action Pictures/Andrew Couldridge)

Using Garcia, and possibly Munguia as well [Vergil] Ortiz, Golden Boy are rebuilding. Earlier there was heartache for Diaz – “Losing Mayweather was very painful, because I really believed [Hatton] he will beat Mayweather”; The fall since Barrera was healed; watching Frankie Gomez's talent go to waste – and, more importantly for him and each of his teammates, withdrawing from HBO boxing.

“When we broke up [between De La Hoya and Schaefer] it happened, it slowed down, because the biggest name you have is 'Canelo',” said the Mexican, whose son Bobby is still with the promoter and works for DAZN. “You stick with Golden Boy; all your other fighters are gone. Many of them were not under contract; they are leaving; and they leave the networks; HBO signs Canelo to a long-term deal; that saves us time.

“HBO suddenly decides to get out of boxing – a huge blow to everyone. Fighters; promoters; boxing in general. You still go back and reminisce and watch old fights on HBO. They were the best. 'Okay. What are we going to do?' I was very involved with the fighters, one by one. Not that no one else was there, but they knew they could pick up the phone at any time. I wanted to be involved; I wanted to be close to them. You have a champion that you have to let go. 'But you told me your word.' I never foresaw Covid and where all this is going. “

Since Alvarez's departure, Golden Boy has been partnering with DAZN. If Diaz had not refused to promise Dmitry Bivol a fight with Alvarez, he believes that they would be promoting this Russian player, identifying his strength. Diaz was in Las Vegas to watch Bivol-Alvarez in 2022; if he watches Alvarez-Munguia he will be far from unsympathetic; as recently as June 2023 he was responsible for Danielto Zorrilla replacing the injured Liam Paro as a Regis Prograis contender.

He says: “Fifteen years. “It was not easy – people got used to my name being included with Golden Boy. But my contract ended – every beginning has an end. It was time for both sides to go their separate ways; maybe on the ground things will start to come out little by little. How things ended maybe wasn't the best, or at least it was done right. I don't regret the 15 years – 14.5 was amazing.

“Only the midfielder understands other players. I want to stay in boxing. That is my wish. I can – that's what I want to do. But in a different role. Let me sit down; advise; do here and there.

“I can see both sides now; It's not just being a boss who says, 'You have to pay more'. I know where the middle is.”

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