JUAN DIAZ: Good afternoon everybody. I just want to say that I’m very excited and am very glad to be getting back into the mix of things. I’m, obviously, fighting a big, big (INAUDIBLE), so I prepare myself to the best that I can and from this time that I’ve been not fighting, I feel that I’ll come back stronger and more ferocious than ever.
DAN RAFAEL, ESPN.COM: You know, we’ve known that you’ve been out of the ring for quite a while, I’d just like to get your feelings, I’ve talked to Willy Savannah (ph) a little bit about it over the last few months, if you could just express the type of frustration it’s been in not only not fighting for the last, well I guess, almost nine months now but also having fights that are planned like Lakva Sim and then its, then its on, then its off, I mean what kind of emotional roller coaster and just general frustration have you had with the way things have gone in your career, say, for the past year or so, since I guess, the cut (ph) occurred before what was supposed to be your defense against Ebo Elder?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, yes, its been a tough couple of months for me for that case because, you know, I haven’t fought and everybody knows I used to fight every three to four months but that’s one of the things that you know, I had to sit down and really think about it because I’ve been fortunate and I thank the Lord that you know, I’ve been able to get as many fights as I could throughout my career and eventually, there comes a point in time in every fighter’s career, its like a business. You know a business might be going very, very good and then all of a sudden its going to have its downfalls and then its going to come right back up, so I feel that these couple of months were just my downfall and my business wasn’t going like I planned it but I’m just – I think about what I have accomplished and that’s what keeps me going. I say, well, I became champion at age 20, so that’s a big accomplishment that a lot of fights cannot do and yes, a couple of fights with Lakva Sim fell out but you know, after the third one fell out, I was kind of expecting for that to happen. I had already set in mind so I had to really focus and get in my head that this fight next week was actually going to happen.
DAN RAFAEL: Hey Juan, you know, like you mentioned, you won a world championship, I think, when you were 20 when you won it, maybe, you were 21 but that’s, you know, you were right there in what should be your, you know, rise to the top and putting on big time fights, making a lot of money and all that. Was it sort of surprising that after the cut happened, before the Elder (ph) fight that everything sort of went cold for so long?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, it was a little surprising because I expected to have big fights come my way but like I said, you know, in my business, you know, I guess that was the point in time where I had to – it wasn’t – it didn’t go that good, so I feel that I just got to keep training and eventually something good will come up.
DAN RAFAEL: Let me ask you just one more question, then. While the – while you were inactive and not having fights, were you – have you always, basically, been sort of in some kind of training given that the – you did have that one small fight against Cruz and the Sim fight has been on and off, on and off, has there ever been a time where you just kind of threw up your hands and walked away from the gym for a few weeks and didn’t train?
JUAN DIAZ: Oh no. I – definitely, I always stayed on the gym after the Cruz fight. I had a couple of – my manager mentioned a couple of possible fights, so you know, I stayed hungry. I stayed in the gym and even after the fight with Lakva Sim may take a couple of days off because you know, I have been sparring and training hard, so I will take a couple of days off and come right back in the gym because I know that not only does it keep me in shape but it is also keeps me healthy and from really going up in weight.
CARLOS ARIAS, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Hey, what’s your status in school now? Are you graduating yet or what’s the deal there?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, right now I’m a junior and I was just talking with Don about that. I have about 40 more hours to go, so you know, I’m not that far off from graduating now.
CARLOS ARIAS: So, were you able to pick up any more units during your break here?
JUAN DIAZ: Actually that’s where I messed up a little bit. You know, my manager mentioned a couple of possible fights, so after I got cut, I – in April, I fought in July again and then after that you know, he had set up a little schedule for me, so I figured well, let me not go ahead and take extra classes because you know, something might come up and I just took the regular, my two to three classes, and – which I should’ve taken a full load, since – if I should’ve known that I wasn’t going to be fighting, then, I would’ve taken a full load and would’ve speeded up a little bit, the price is a little bit more but I didn’t, so I just, you know, on my usual schedule.
CARLOS ARIAS: What are your thoughts about what’s been going on in the lightweight division? What do you think about the other champions and what’s going on there?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, you know, obviously, there are some great champions in the lightweight division but right now, you know, I got to a point where I didn’t – I just wanted to know when was I going to fight, so I didn’t worry about nobody else. I was just – I would come in the gym and ask my manager, oh, we got something, we got something? Yes, so I have been really keeping up in the lightweight division, I just – now that I actually got this fight I’ve been concentrating on getting stronger and going out there and just do what I do best.
JIM EVERETT, HEAVYHITTERS.COM: I was just curious, where do you envision your career through the rest of 2006? Are you going to look to try and unify some of the lightweight belts or even, perhaps, step up into the, what seems to be the soon dormant junior welterweight division, with some of superstars moving up to 147.
JUAN DIAZ: Well, right now, I feel very comfortable in the lightweight division and I feel that this division is right for me for – is going to be right for me for the next, possibly, two years – 1.5 to two, so I’m going to stay in the lightweight division and I hope to accomplish my goal to unify the division and after 2006, I’m just going to take it step-by-step because I think that last year – at the beginning of last year, I got a little comfortable and I got, you know, I was like – I was expecting a lot of big fights and a lot of things to happen to me and I know that you know that at any point, anything in your career can change all of that so I’m just going to take it step-by-step and fight and win on April the 8th and then see what happens from there.
JIM EVERETT: Just looking forward beyond the fight, do you have a preference? Would you like to see the – maybe, challenge the winner of the Raheem/Freitas fight or challenge Chavez or even step up your opposition with Diego Corrales?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, those are fights that I would love to have and I would love to be in those fights and right now, you know, my main concern is Jose Cotto but after that you know, I feel that I’m at the point in my career where I can take on anybody and anybody who they tell me to fight I will fight.
JIM EVERETT: Great. Just one last question, do you have any predictions for the upcoming fight with Cotto?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, I’ve seen him fight and I know he’s a strong puncher. He’s undefeated and I feel that it’s just going to be a great fight because he comes forward, I come forward and a great action fight.
JOHN WHISLER, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS: Hey, I was wondering, following up on this school issue, tell me, again, where you go, is it U of H?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, the university downtown campus.
JOHN WHISLER: Downtown and your major?
JUAN DIAZ: Government.
JOHN WHISLER: OK, you have an eye toward, like, maybe law enforcement?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, my plan is to graduate from U of H and then, go to their law program and be – try to be an attorney.
JOHN WHISLER: Alright and I know at one time – for a long time, you were, you know, living with your mom and dad, are you still doing that?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, I’m still with them. Me and my parents have a great relationship and I know that’s one of the big key factors that – they keep me in line also because even though I’m 22 years old but when you live with your parents, you still got to following some rules and I know that’s what keeps my career and my – both in school and in boxing in line.
JOHN WHISLER: You’re a guy who likes the rules then.
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, I, you know, I feel that if you follow the rules and you do everything that you’re supposed to do then good things will happen to you and the way things are supposed to work out, will work out.
JOHN WHISLER: OK. What are some of the rules your mom and dad still have for you?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, when I’m not going to fight, I basically, don’t have any rules but when I’m going to fight the main rule, is that Monday through Friday, you know, they don’t worry about it because I’m so tired with school and getting ready for the fight that I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to go out or anything but on Saturdays or Sundays, when – they’re a little bit – they’re not as hard and it’s a weekend, my mom always makes me get home by 11 o’clock at night. If not, she – if I’m not home by 11, she’ll call and say, look, (INAUDIBLE) manager is telling me you’re not home yet, so you know, I’m like, well, I’m around the corner mom, I’m almost there.
DAN RAFAEL: Juan, just a – I want to clarify one thing that you were just answering with John. Do you say that if your mother says that she’s going to call Willy and tell him you’re not home on a Saturday or Sunday night?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes. That’s when she keeps me in line and if it wasn’t for her, I probably would stay out later than that.
DAN RAFAEL: OK. My other question was about, we talked about the, sort of, sporadic schedule you’ve kept, in terms of your fights over the last year or so, so when this fight, you know, you had the mandatory against Sim (ph) and people sort of thought that was the guy you were going to have to fight at some point and then, I guess, your folks were able to deal with the WBA and allow an exception because the fight had been postponed so many times, so what was it like when this fight sort of, in my mind, kind of came out of the blue, out of nowhere, you know, one day, you know, had nothing. The Sim fight was off. The next day you’re defending your title against Jose Cotto on a major, major show. Can you just talk – recount the way that that came about and your thoughts when you found out the fight was on?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes. Well, one of the things that happened was that my team tried to get a – for me to fight somebody else because – an extension because Sim, him or his promoter have put on – put out the fight a couple of times, have dropped, put it on and then took it off and we finally got in an exception and I thought it was going to be a 10-round fight. That’s what my manager had told me but all of sudden, he came up and told me that I was going to fight on an HBO Pay-Per-View on the (INAUDIBLE) I was up for that right away because it’s a big show and I haven’t been on TV for a long time and haven’t fought, so it’s a great opportunity for all of my fans to see me next week-end.
DAN RAFAEL: So, you sort of had an inkling that you were going to get a fight, you just didn’t realize it was going to be a defense of your title and that it was going to be on a major pay-per-view?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, I kind of figured another 10-round, kind of, warm up fight or you know something to keep me busy.
DAN RAFAEL: Do you think that you’re going to have to eventually fight Lakva Sim again, a guy that you already beat pretty convincingly the first time around.
JUAN DIAZ: Yes. That’s one of the things that I have to do and the WBA demands it. I have to give him an opportunity at the title again.
JOHN WHISLER: Hey Juan, I was just wondering – I was just following up, have you had this kind of a layoff before in your pro career?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, I’ve never had this kind of layoff.
JOHN WHISLER: Yes.
JUAN DIAZ: It’s been, maybe, five months, at the most, four to five months but never this long.
JOHN WHISLER: Are you concerned, at all, about taking this level of a fight after so long of a layoff?
JUAN DIAZ: I am not worried, right now because I’ve been preparing for three times to fight Lakva Sim, so I’ve been in and out of training camp for, I would say, a couple of months and I don’t feel that I’ve lost anything. If anything, I think I gained a lot of rest and now that’s what’s going to make me go out there and just look my best.
JOHN WHISLER: One other thing, with this time off has it changed your perspective on anything at all, on your career, on your life, on school; anything?
JUAN DIAZ: Well, one of the things that its made me think about how important school is and how important it is to put a little bit of money every time I fight in my retirement because at any point you can just – I can lose this career in boxing and where I will be, you know, a few years from now, so its made me think that school and saving up for when – for my retirement, is very important to do now, so its made me think that school and saving up for when I – for my retirement is very important, to do now and not just waste the money on things that I want now.
JOHN WHISLER: What do you – what has been extravagance for you? What do you buy; anything?
JUAN DIAZ: Actually I love cars. Cars are one of the things that I love the most. I seem to like, every year, I may have like two and three cars. I might just change them up.
JOHN WHISLER: Do you buy new ones?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes.
JOHN WHISLER: Two or three a year?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes but I don’t keep them, you know, I trade them in and …
JOHN WHISLER: Yes.
JUAN DIAZ: get a different one.
JOHN WHISLER: What do you like? What certain kind?
JUAN DIAZ: Right now, well, right now I managed to keep for more than a year my choice that I have, I have a Cadillac Escalade, which drives real smooth and I also like sports cars.
JOHN WHISLER: OK, do you have one of those now?
JUAN DIAZ: No, I don’t, not right now. I have a …
JOHN WHISLER: So, you just usually keep one vehicle at a time but just trade it often.
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, I usually keep one vehicle because I feel that you know I wouldn’t get the satisfaction of really enjoying the car if I had several cars. I just have one and use it until I wear it out.
JOHN WHISLER: OK. You have any other hobbies, any things you like to do?
JUAN DIAZ: Yes, one of my favorite hobbies is fishing. I bought me a little 22-foot boat and I’ll go out on the weekends and go out there with my friends and we just – I like to fish.
JOHN WHISLER: But not past 11 o’clock?
JUAN DIAZ: Not when I’m getting ready for a fight, no.
JOHN WHISLER: Right. Where do you go to fish?
JUAN DIAZ: I go to Galveston Bay.
JIM EVERETT: Juan, just a continuation on some of the questions in regard to your training. For some time you were scheduled – I guess the last scheduled date with Sim was March 3rd and that card had gotten scratched, did you have to change anything in your training in preparation for Sim and now, preparing for Cotto?
JUAN DIAZ: Not too much because they’re – if you look at both of them, they’re almost the same fighter. They both come forward and they have a similar style, so I didn’t have to change too much in my preparation, just with Cotto there’s certain things that I have to watch out for, instead of fighting Sim, like, for instance, Sim has a great right hand; Cotto has a great left hook, so there’s just different things that I’ve got to watch out for.
JIM EVERETT: Did you – in comparison to, I guess, one of you stablemates had main events, Rocky Juarez, with some of the, you know, events last year where some of the cards had gotten changed at the last minute for various things. He was due to fight Injin Chi and then ended up Humberto Soto and had, you know, suffered his first lost, do you have any concerns of, you know, changing opponents with somewhat of a short notice?
JUAN DIAZ: (INAUDIBLE) at all because I feel that when you get ready for a fight, you know, eventually, every fighter’s going to come to a point in their career where they’re going to suffer that loss and if its my turn, then, its my turn and if its not, then, I’m always going to well prepared. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how prepared you get that guy might just have your number and you might not be able to – everybody else in the world might be able to beat that guy but you might not be able to beat that guy, so I feel that every fighter has their number already and it doesn’t matter who you are, there’s one guy out there that has your number.