Text, photos and video by Ted Regencia
CHICAGO — As he prepares for his biggest fight against the Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao on June 28, lightweight champion David Diaz now spars with a Filipino-American southpaw.
Diaz has enlisted the help of Diamond Gut-oman Baier, a 31-year old native of Bontoc, Mountain Province, as one of his three sparring partners, all lefties.
Diamond, as he is popularly known in Chicago’s boxing community, is an amateur boxer and trains with the Chicago Boxing Club. He is also an entrepreneur and long-time resident of the Chicago’s South Side. At the age of 10, Diamond moved to Chicago after he was adopted by his aunt. He took his last name Baier, from his German-American uncle.
“I hope he doesn’t get in trouble,” Diaz jokingly quipped after revealing Diamond’s name. “We didn’t just get him because he’s Filipino. We got him because his style is similar to Manny’s. He is fast, he’s pretty strong and he’s from around the area,” Diaz said.
On Thursday, June 19 as Diaz held court with the Chicago media, Diamond kept a low-profile staying at the back of the Jabb Boxing Gym, where the press conference took place.
In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Diamond said that he has been boxing for six years. In 2004, he met David through his coach, who encouraged him to watch the Olympian shadow-box.
“I learned a lot from David. It’s a small world, years later, here I am helping him out for his championship fight,” Diamond said in a soft-spoken voice that belies his hard-hitting punches.
“This is going to be a great fight,” Diamond predicted of the match between the two boxing champions, Diaz and Pacquiao. “For all the boxing fans out there, I hope they’ll get a chance to see it.”
He also offered some analysis about the sports, particularly on the advantages of lefty boxers like him, saying that “they are just awkward to fight.” “Most people who are right-handed usually fight right-handed fighters. So, when you fight someone who is left-handed, you’re thrown-off just because of all the angles.”
What makes the fight between Diaz and Pacquiao interesting is that both are lefties, Diamond pointed out. “This will be a great fight. I can’t wait to see it.”
While Diamond was not picked by virtue of his birth as a Filipino, he said he is proud of his Mountain Province ancestry.
“I’m always gonna be Filipino. Absolutely” Diamond said adding that he still loves to eat adobo, pancit and lumpia. Last year, he returned to the Philippines to attend the funeral of his mother, and will visit anew in September.
Diaz’s two other sparring partners are Oscar Leon of Colombia and Ivan Popcea of Mexico. He is being trained by Bob Arum and promoted by Top Rank.
Just a little more than a week before his fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Diaz said as of June 18, he weighs 137 lbs., two pounds above the lightweight division that he is fighting.
Asked whether there’s still some part of his training that he needs to work on, Diaz said that “like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, it’s all coming together.” “What we need is conditioning, so we need to work on that conditioning until the couple of days before the fight. And then from there, see what happens.”
As to his psychological readiness, the Chicago-born pugilist said that “he doesn’t think about it too much.” “I just go with the flow and see where it takes me. If the day of the fight, I have to do something, then I’ll do it. Other than that, just go forward man.”