Trainer Joel Diaz speaking in Las Vegas (Photo: Chris Robinson – www.HustleBoss.com)
By Chris Robinson
Having come off of a thrilling, give-and-take battle with gritty Russian Ruslan Provodnikov this past March, there was much curiosity surrounding the return of WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley.
Set to face off with Mexico City’s Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night inside of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on HBO pay per view, Bradley (30-0, 12 KO’s) admitted to having suffered a concussion during his brutal melee with Provodnikov and claimed to have balance issues in the aftermath of that encounter.
Seeing his charge dive back into a full-fledged workout routine in early August inside of the Indio Boys and Girls Club in Southern California, trainer Joel Diaz could tell instantly that Bradley was far from his peak form.
“Those early days were a little tough,” Diaz said, speaking after the final Bradley-Marquez press conference inside of the Wynn Las Vegas. “The fact that we had to focus on him establishing his balance. He was a little bit off balance. There were just certain things. One of them was a little excessive weight.
“And the other was due to the last fight,” Diaz stated, referencing the Provodnikov scrap. “He was a little bit off. But coming into the training early, that was our main concern. Two weeks later he was back and he just started getting better and better as the weeks went. Just talking to him and him telling me ‘Coach, I’m good and I’ll get better.’ And here we are, he is better than ever.”
What seemed to give Diaz a huge confidence boost was the way Bradley looked during his last day of sparring. Bradley went twelve hard rounds, finishing up with his stable mate and Diaz’s younger brother Julio, a former two-division champion in his own right.
“Julio Diaz was the last one to close camp with him,” Diaz explained. “Julio Diaz comes to give you war. Strong, smart; he’s been in the ins and outs of boxing as well. And he is a natural welterweight. That being said, we had all the confidence in the world. By the way he performed his last day in camp, there’s no doubt in our mind that we’re going to win this fight.”
Bradley has admitted in the lead up to the fight that Marquez is the best fighter he has ever faced.
Possessing tremendous counter-punching ability, great ring acumen, and loads of world-class experience, Marquez is a true assassin inside of the ring.
And despite his advanced age of 40, Marquez is coming off of his biggest victory as a professional, as he knocked Manny Pacquiao unconscious in their fourth bout this past December.
Asked how Bradley will deal with such a formidable foe, Diaz insists that there is always a way no matter how difficult the task.
“Be smart,” Diaz noted. “You prepare for everything. There’s always a plan for everything. He’s a counter-puncher, we understand. Timothy has the speed. You can counter-punch a counter-puncher with speed.
“Don’t fall into his plan,” Diaz would add. “[Bradley] has to establish his own plan and maintain it. There’s always moments where the fighter goes on his own. One of the main focuses we got is stick to your plan and execute. Don’t let him work.”
And while Marquez has seemed to discover the fountain of youth since linking up with strength and conditioning coach Angel Heredia in late 2011, Diaz insists he will feel his age once the rounds start piling up.
“Definitely,” Diaz confirmed. “That’s why we’re very aware that, round by round, after the rounds go, five, six rounds, you’re going to see the difference.”
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Chris Robinson can be reached at Trimond@aol.com