Is Diaz holding place for Pacquiao?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

LAS VEGAS – In 1973, promoter Don King arrived at the heavyweight title fight between champion Joe Frazier and unbeaten challenger George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica, at Frazier's side.

Seconds after Foreman pummeled Frazier, knocked him down six times and stopped him to win the title, King sidestepped Frazier to celebrate with Foreman and left in a limousine with the new champion.

It's long been the way of boxing.

The scene may play itself out yet again later this year. WBC lightweight champion David Diaz, who fights Ramon Montano on Saturday at Mandalay Bay in a 10-round non-title bout on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez super featherweight title match, may simply be holding the belt for Pacquiao.

A member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, Diaz had dreamed so long of winning a world title belt that he was reduced to tears when he finally captured one on Aug. 5 in Chicago by defeating Erik Morales.

If Pacquiao wins on Saturday, Top Rank's plan is for him to challenge Diaz on June 28 on HBO Pay-Per-View at Mandalay Bay.

Clearly, the goal for Top Rank, which promotes both men, is for Pacquiao to win that belt. Pacquiao is one of the sport's biggest stars and would mean big money with another championship belt.

One of the most gracious and engaging men in an all-too cutthroat business, Diaz is well aware of the plans for his belt, but shrugs it off as part of the game.

"They could think any way they want, because to me, it's not what they think, it's what I think," said Diaz, who beat Zab Judah twice in the Olympic trials to earn his berth on the 1996 squad. "I really believe that if we get that fight done, everybody will be able to see what David Diaz has to offer."

Diaz doesn't let much bother him. It's rare at a pre-fight news conference that a world champion is stashed in a corner the way Diaz was on Wednesday in a tiny room atop Mandalay Bay. While many boxers would rail against the slight, Diaz simply shrugs.

He's not about to complain or make waves. Nothing he says, he understands, would make a difference.

The only thing that is going to lift his stature is to produce. And that means by starting with a solid performance in his first bout after winning the title.

Promoter Bob Arum said it isn't a title fight because there isn't enough time on the pay-per-view card for three 12-rounders, so all sides agreed to a 10-round, non-title bout.

"We're pushing it at that," Arum said.

Diaz, 31, says there isn't a chance in the world he'll look past Montano, who is 15-4-2 and only has one knockout in 21 pro bouts.

Without a win over Montano, there's almost no chance he'll face Pacquiao. So Diaz is determined to put on a show and then go to his locker room and root his heart out for Pacquiao to defeat Marquez.

"I pride myself on taking every fight seriously," says Diaz, who is 33-1-1 with 17 knockouts.

And when he says every fight, well, he means every fight.

"Even the fights with my wife are championship fights," he says, cackling.

He says earnestly that he'll do anything he has to do to keep the belts, but said life isn't significantly different now that he's a champion.

He still has to do his chores and still has the same rivalries with his family.

"Just because I'm a champion doesn't mean I get out of taking out the trash," he said. "Still got to take out the trash. Still get bully-runned by my brothers and sisters, so nothing big has changed.

"The only difference is when I'm in the store, maybe somebody recognizes me now and they yell 'Champ!' It has meaning now where before, it was just because I was a boxer and they probably recognized my face but couldn't remember my name. I'm still me. I'm no different. I'm still the same guy and I'm still going to fight the same way."

He's not naturally gifted like Pacquiao and he doesn't have anything near Pacquaio's rabid fan base.

But he's not conceding a thing. The competitor in Diaz simply won't allow it.

"It tells you a lot about how big Manny Pacquiao is, because I'm not even fighting him and everyone wants to talk to me about him," Diaz said. "But you can't let yourself be affected by that. People love to tell you you can't do something. It happens all the time. That's why it's so good proving them wrong. That's what I do. I prove people wrong."