Interview: Willie Savannah

By Michael Campbell


Interview: Willie Savannah

Juan Diaz's manager speaks out

BT: Michael Campbell from Boxingtalk here at Savannah’s Boxing Gym with Willie Savannah, manager of WBA Lightweight champ, Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz. First of all before we get started, congratulations to your Boxing Club on recently capturing the Open Team trophy at the Houston Golden Gloves.  You had 3 open division champions and one runner up.  Talk to us about Hylon Williams, Jr. at 125 lbs, it was his first year in the Open division.  He was in a tough division and rolled right through it.

WS: He really settled down and boxed.  The first night out there.. you know they all try to box like Floyd Mayweather, all out over their feet.  The second night, we talked to him and I got Ronnie Shields to talk to him and he settled down and boxed, and he looked fantastic.

BT:  And also going to the state tournament is Omar Henry at 165 lbs and Lenard Lane at 152 lbs.

WS: Yep, the three champions are going to Ft. Worth and hopefully then on to Chattanooga, Tennessee for Nationals.

BT: Good luck to them at State.  OK, let’s talk about Juan’s situation.  We haven’t seen him since his defense versus Angulo in November.  He’s been getting rid of mandatories, and has been on the shelf recently awaiting a fight.  What’s the deal with Prawet Singwangcha, the current WBA mandatory?

WS: Don King was going to put the fight on Feb. 3rd.  We had a contract, Singwangcha had a contract and we were going to fight.  The week-end of Christmas, we were told that fight was pulled off the card.  It was going to be off-TV, but we had agreed to fight the fight because it was our mandatory.  Showtime didn’t want the fight and we agreed to take a lot less than our guaranteed amount.  So it wasn’t about money.  I told Don it was crazy to pull the fight off the card because now it’s going to have to have a purse bid, and we only have a few fights left with Don King.  And it didn’t make any sense since he was promoting the Chavez, who’s a GoldenBoy fighter, and Julio Diaz, who’s a Sycuan fighter.  The scenario was for the winner to fight the winner of our fight.  But now that is all out of sync.  We were all set, already in training, but now we have to wait for this purse bid which will be around the 1st of March.

BT: We’d been hearing that the mandatory was asked to step aside so that a Juan Diaz versus Joel Casamayor fight could happen.  What happened with those negotiations?

WS: I have no idea.  The Casamayor fight was never solid.  They made the deal with GoldenBoy and Singwatcha, which was agreed to, and even notified the WBA.  But there was never an agreement to fight Casamayor.  It was just assumed, I think.  So now we’re back into our mandatory period.  Which if nobody makes an offer, it’ll go to purse bid around March 1st and then whoever wins has 3 months to put on the fight.  So it could be June before we even fight again!

BT: Ok then, it was recently announced by Top Rank that Manny Pacquiao is coming to Texas to fight in April.  You’ve made it known that you’d like that fight for Juan, but can that fight happen now?

WS: I think if they were serious about fighting, another “step-aside” could be arranged.  Really as far as the WBA is concerned, there never was one “step-aside” before, because the Feb. 3rd bout was never sanctioned. Top Rank said they are looking for someone to fight in San Antonio, and I can’t think of anyone better than Juan Diaz.  We’re from Texas and it’d be a heckuva show.  With all these old guys fighting each other for dollar signs, what the fans of boxing need to put interest back in is something like this with the young guys fighting.  The UFC is coming to Houston and they sold 6000 tickets the first day.  For the sake of boxing, we need this fight to happen!  And we’d be glad to accommodate Bob Arum and make it happen.  I noticed that Pac-man weighed in at 142 lbs the night he fought Erik Morales, but maybe it’s too big of a challenge for him to fight Juan.

BT: Juan has the title at 135 lbs while Pacquaio is campaigning at 130 lbs mostly.  What does Juan weigh the night of his fights?

WS: About 142, 144, he never gets up to 150 lbs.  So they’re pretty evenly matched weight-wise the night of the fight.

BT: Pacquaio is a very awkward southpaw with power, something Juan’s never seen the likes of before.  Do you think Juan’s ready for this type of fight?

WS: You know, I’ve been nurturing Juan ever since he was 8 years old, taking him from step to step, bringing him along.  And now I figure he’s ready to fight the big boys.  He’s been the baby bull, but I think he’s close to being a papa bull now.  He could fight Ricky Hatton at 140 lbs, he could fight Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Casamayor, or Freitas.  He could fight all these guys.

BT: Why not fight Erik Morales now?

WS: That would be great too, that’s the fight we’ve been discussing in the gym with the guys.  But the thing is, who wants to fight Juan?  Nobody.

BT: Julio Diaz does.

WS: Yeah, all of a sudden he wants to fight Juan.  Look, Julio Diaz, for a fact, was offered a fight in January 2005, when Juan fought Billy Irwin, to be on the card and then we’d fight each other next.  But he refused to be on the card and went to fight Castillo instead.  He was offered that opportunity to fight Juan.  What do we need him for now?

BT: It’s the same thing with Nate Campbell wanting to fight Juan.

WS: Everybody says this, but with Main Events we went thru some long lists trying to get people to fight Juan and they wouldn’t.  We don’t like to call people out but I felt compelled with this Pacquaio fight because I wanted Bob Arum to know we’d fight him in April in Texas or anywhere else for that matter.

BT: Ok, so it’s a confusing situation but to summarize, you’re looking for a big fight to negotiate, but nothing is imminent and you’ll go to your purse bid with the mandatory if nothing else comes up.

WS: Yep, and hopefully if it happens, the mandatory will take place in the United States.  That’s why I’m really upset we didn’t fight on Feb. 3rd, because we coulda just gotten it out of the way.  Now it seems like we’re in the same situation we were in with Lakva Sim.

BT: The main criticism we hear of Juan Diaz is that he hasn’t stepped it up, while he’s been a title holder for a very long time now, yet he’s still fighting guys most people wouldn’t put in the top ten.  But for the record, you’re trying to make these big fights.

WS: It’s not our fault; it’s the sanctioning bodies which create this thing.  We want to fight the Moraleses, Freitases, & Hattons.  What can we do?

BT: What’s Juan’s status right now, is he training and in shape?

WS: Juan’s always ready to go.  Well, maybe I don’t want to say that, nobody will want to fight him.

BT: He’s been out of the gym, getting fat, drinking beer.

WS: Yeah, he’s drunk weighing about 190 lbs right now.

BT: He’s been over at Ricky Hatton’s pub.

WS: Yeah..  But right now, Juan knew there’d be a delay, so in January he added two classes, stepped up his school, and is now taking four classes, four days a week.  So at least this isn’t all for naught.

BT: Ok, thanks Willie, hopefully you can get a fight in San Antonio.

WS: Wouldn’t that be something with Pacquiao and Baby Bull in the Alamodome, 35-40,000 people there!  C’mon BOB!  BOB make the fight BOB!!


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