Jerry Glick reporting: One of the hottest fights that is in danger of not happening is between two of the finest young fighters in the business today; Paul Malignaggi and Juan Diaz.
The first time these two guys met in a boxing ring, they created as much fireworks outside of the ring as they did inside of it. In the ring neither man would back down. They fought the fight that got them there. Both are former world champions; Malignaggi the ex-IBF Junior-Welterweight Title holder, and Diaz is a former WBA, WBO, and IBF Lightweight Champ. Paulie, the Brooklyn Italian kid who could dance around a boxing ring with such skill I am sure that the Will-o-the-Wisp, Willie Pep himself, is smiling somewhere in Heaven; and Juan, the Mexican college kid with the engaging smile, who can keep the pressure pouring onto his opponents. They fought almost to a draw. A draw might have satisfied everyone; or it might have satisfied no one. A rematch is the way to go, but………
RICHARD SCHAEFER; GOLDEN BOY (DIAZ)
When I spoke to Golden Boy’s CEO, Richard Schaefer, I almost felt as though I were watching an old western movie with the Cavalry riding to the rescue. This reporter felt a certain happiness upon hearing that the fans who are waiting for Diaz-Malignaggi II, are not waiting pointlessly. Things are currently looking up. The two promoters, Golden Boy and DiBella Entertainment, are once again talking Malignaggi-Diaz II.
“First of all the first fight was a great fight,” said Schaefer. “It was an action packed fight. It went back and forth, I felt that, as most boxing experts, except for the HBO announcers, that Juan Diaz did pull it off, that he won a very close decision.”
Schaefer feels that the one scorecard that indicated dominant win for Diaz by Gale Van Hoy set off a maelstrom of opinions that got everyone’s blood pressure up.
“I think the outcry was really caused by the wide scorecard from Judge Van Hoy and that lead to the rematch taking on a life of its own,” said Schaefer accurately describing the situation. “And it really seems to be the that the fans and the public really wants to see a rematch so Lou DiBella and I have to work diligently on trying to find a way to get this fight done.”
Schaefer, as is DiBella, is very experienced in the art of negotiating. He points out that in the course of hammering out a deal such as this there are ups and downs.
“There were a lot of downs last week,” added Schaefer. He added further that it is starting to look a bit brighter at this time. “It is my hope that in the next few days that we can somehow come to the conclusion of these negotiations and give the fight fans what they want and that is a rematch between these two great fighters.”
Schaefer agrees that there can be concessions to Malignaggi’s side, but he states that he wants it to be respectful. He added that Diaz has other, more lucrative, options, but will work to make this fight happen. “I am today more optimistic than I was last week.” The talks go on.
LOU DIBELLA; DIBELLA ENTERTAINMENT (MALIGNAGGI)
Neither Richard Schaefer, nor Lou DiBella were reckless in what they were willing to talk about. This only shows just how delicate the negotiations are for this fight. Both realize that it is worth saving. It was a classic match-up of one of the finest boxers today against one of the best fighters.
“My understanding is, the deal is still alive,” said DiBella. “And I think the less said the better for the time being. I don’t think there’s another fight that anyone gives a rat’s ass about for Juan Diaz; and this is a fight that the fans want. It’s a fight that’s right for boxing, a fight that’s right for HBO, quite frankly is right for both Juan Diaz and Malignaggi. So I still believe that the fight is going to happen and that’s basically, for the time being, all I’m going to say.
Schaefer, as was DiBella, is playing it cool with things that they say publically about the negotiations. In closing Richard said that what is currently going on is not something that he is willing to make public.
WILLIE SAVANNAH; DIAZ’ TRAINER
Juan Diaz’ very astute manager, Willie Savannah, has his own angle on the current situation. He has a now or never attitude on the rematch. He made it very clear to this reporter that it better happen on December 12th or it won’t happen at all. Not now, not next year, never.
“I don’t know what’s going on with this thing,” said Savannah. “It’s just been crazy since they first started talking about this rematch. They didn’t want to go to this place; they wanted to go to that place; we let them know early on that we would fight anywhere, it didn’t matter to us.”
In business it is always said that the three most important things are location, location, and location, well not as far as Team Diaz and manager Willie Savannah see it. For them the three most important things in business are money, money and money. Savannah’s problem with the rematch is only about the money. They will fight where ever it is better for boxing and where they can make the most money.
HBO put up a $750,000 site fee that at first according to Savannah was fine as long as the two fighters could split the money two ways, but it did not turn out to be the way Savannah expected it would be. Instead of a two way split, there would be a four way split. There are two promoters, Golden Boy, who represents Diaz, and DiBella Entertainment who are on the Malignaggi team, who would be getting a cut as well.
“Somebody mentioned to me that it would be split 50-50. What 50-50 would that be based on after the two promoters got their portion? The 50-50 split would then be based on $500,000 (instead of $750,000).”
Savannah said that he is amenable to many things that DiBella asked for including the site, and the ring size, but the money must be correct.
“We would fight him at the same weight we did in Houston,” said Savannah. “Juan’s gone up from ’35, which is 3 ½ pounds; Paulie’s coming down a pound and a half. We will let him have Giant Stadium for a ring if that’s what he wants.”
Savannah said that in Houston Diaz took below his normal guarantee to make the fight happen.
“As it turns out for this fight Malignaggi will be getting a pay increase,” Diaz’ ever protective manager explained. “And Juan will be getting a pay cut for this fight. In other words, Malignaggi will be getting more than he made in Houston, and Juan will make less for this fight than he made in Houston.”
The way it will play out, again according to Savannah, Malignaggi, regardless of who he, his team, or his fans, believe won, the fact is Juan Diaz got the decision; therefore he was the winner of the fight, bgut regardless, Malignaggi will be paid more than Diaz. That does not wash with Team Diaz.
As to the deal that was supposedly hammered out between Golden Boy (Diaz) and DiBella Entertainment (Malignaggi), Savannah is not concerned with that.
“If there was an agreement hammered out between Golden Boy and them,” explained Savannah. “It was strictly between them; it wasn’t between Golden Boy, me and them.”
He said that they are blaming Camp Diaz, but the Diaz people are willing to fight anybody, anywhere, as long as the money is right. “We are not the perpetrators in this,” said Savannah emphatically.
Savannah is quick to remind everyone that it was not the Houston judges who made Diaz the winner of the decision. “There was only one Houston judge,” he said. He points out the many writers said that Houston judges made Juan the winner and that they neglect to point out that only one of the three judges was from Texas.
“I’m as confused as anybody in this situation,” admitted Willie. “They shopped this around and no one wants it.” He believes that the promoters decided that they were going to lose money no matter where this fight ended up, so they took a slice of the $750.000 pie to protect against loses.
The two participants, Juan and Paulie, may just be sitting out the rest of 2009, if Savannah is correct in what he sees happening.
JUAN DIAZ; FORMER LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION
Yes, there is a “but” in this story of a hot ticket fight. After the two promotional sides negotiated, things seemed to be going well, when suddenly Diaz and his manager, Willie Savannah, pulled the emergency cord on this train, bringing everything to a halt. There was an announcement from Team Malignaggi explaining their dismay at the sudden change in what they thought was a done deal. Diaz explains it this way; “The rematch wasn’t completely agreed to by Golden Boy and DiBella,” said Diaz. “It was more agreed to by DiBella and Malignaggi. They made it out to be like the rematch was sure to happen, but that wasn’t the case.”
The situation grows deeper if you follow the money trail. “It fell through because of a little bit of conflict over the money,” adds Juan. “In the previous fight I made my money, Malignaggi made his money.”
Diaz claims that the difference in the breakdown of money for the rematch under the agreement that he heard gives Malignaggi more money than the last time, and less money for him than what he made for the first fight. In Diaz’ mind it is like rewarding the loser with a raise and punishing the winner, “And I won the fight! So that was the problem that I’m facing right now. I’m thinking now that the rematch is not going to take place.” And that’s not all, according to Diaz; “Everything is under his terms. It’s like he has an option to make all the terms. I don’t mind going to New York, I don’t mind going to New Jersey because those are the possible spots that were picked, because I know that I have fans all over the country.”
Furthermore, he claims that Team Malignaggi is making things worse. They are talking smack, according to Juan and he is not.
After the decision was announced, Malignaggi lost his temper and said some regrettable things during the post fight interview on TV.
“If you see my promoter De La Hoya or myself, we’re not making derogatory remarks towards them because we are total professionals. Lou DiBella and Malignaggi, I believe, are just money hungry.”
Is there bad blood? “No,” according to Juan, he was greatly appreciative of the classy move that Paulie Malignaggi made when he visited Diaz’ dressing room after the fight knowing that Juan had a bad cut to deal with. “In the end, we both love the sport of boxing,” added Diaz. “He came down here to Houston and he showed a lot of respect for the fans. I respect him for that.”
But what is really happening with this rematch? It all depends on who you are listening to at the moment.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI; FORMER JUNIOR-WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION
Back in 1971 the best brawler in the world fought the best boxer in the world. I’m not going to say that history is repeating itself, but few today can box the way Paulie Malignaggi can, few can fight it out with the same force as Juan Diaz can. In ’71 Joe Frazier (fighter) outpointed Muhammad Ali (boxer). In 2009 Diaz (fighter) outpointed Malignaggi (boxer). Ali vs Frazier II was won by the boxer, Ali. We await the verdict as to whether there will be a Diaz-Malignaggi II.
With the situation hinging on negotiations the chips can fall in any direction. Malignaggi remains realistic. If it happens, good, if not, life goes on.
“I can’t spend my life chasing Juan Diaz,” said Malignaggi. “I think it’s more for the fans. Everyone who saw the first fight wants to see the rematch.”
His disappointment is strong. Malignaggi feels as though a chance at redemption was lost along with the decision that was lost.
“It was a chance to at least get my name back up among the upper echelon fighters in the junior welterweight division,” explained Malignaggi.
With the agreed upon ring size and having to fight at a weight that is less than he is best at, Malignaggi believes that no matter where they fight, it will still be a case of advantage Diaz.
“I agreed to that in order to get a big fight,” said Paulie assessing his options.
Is he optimistic about the rematch happening? “I’m not sure anymore,” said Malignaggi. “These guys keep playing games. One day it’s yes, the next it’s no; one day they’ll come to the East Coast, the next day it’s no. Except for having the fight in Houston, the know they can’t have that, they are trying the same things again. I just want a fair fight.”
He added that it was important to show that he has restarted himself with a new trainer who he feels is more suited to his style of fighting and this was to be his showcase. Sherif Younan has replaced Buddy McGirt who Paulie states is an excellent trainer, just not the right one for him.
“I wanted people to know that I am the Paulie Malignaggi who people have come to know,” said Malignaggi, “Speed, the legs, angles, stuff like that. Stuff that had been taken away, removed from my arsenal with Buddy McGirt.”
Malignaggi feels that with a loss in the Diaz fight and only recently getting back to the kind of style that he is comfortable with, with a new trainer, that an opportunity to shine was lost by the decision going against him.
He is very optimistic about the rematch doing good business. He said that his fights always attract viewers.
“This is a fight that everybody deserves to see again,” said Paulie. “This is a fight where the wrongs can be justified. There were a lot of wrongs in the first fight.”
He points out that the controversies of the first meeting will draw people back who watch that fight and they will spread the word.
“A lot of people who saw the fight will talk to their friends about the rematch. People will tune into the rematch. This has gotten bigger than Juan Diaz and Paul Malignaggi.”
One thing that stood out to this reporter from the first time I started looking into this, I was talking to real boxing people with a strong interest in protecting their fighters and the sport of boxing. What happens will happen.
DIAZ: “I DIDN’T KEEP MY COMPOSURE,” AGAINST MARQUEZ
“I lost because I didn’t keep my composure, I didn’t do the things I was supposed to do. I got too hopped up for that fight. I was so excited and so ready to go out there and put on a great performance, it took over my emotions. I was just too excited. I couldn’t calm down and stay focused on what I was supposed to do. I wanted to show the fans a great fight and I lost control.”
SAVANNAH: TALK DIRTY TO ME
Aside from Savannah objecting to the Malignaggi camp making more money, he is equally upset with the language that he heard in the past and is hearing now from the New York contingent. “I told Juan not to respond to all of that vulgarity.” Willie wants his charge to remember that he is a college kid with a professional future in front of him. He added, “If you’ve got to talk like that then there is something wrong with you.” Savannah was referring to the harsh words that were used in the immediate aftermath of the Houston fight by Malignaggi.
SAVANNAH: IT’S NOW OR NEVER
Savannah: “I think if this fight don’t happen now, it will never happen. I would think never unless things change drastically.”
When I spoke to Willie Savannah he predicted, as I said earlier, that he believed that the fight would not happen. I made a gentleman’s bet with him that it would. At this point it is looking better (for me) for the fight coming to fruition. There are pros on both sides of the table and they really do know exactly what to do.
“When I spoke to Willie last week it didn’t look good. It didn’t make sense,” said Schaefer. “Juan felt that he won the first fight and he felt that he wasn’t being treated like the winner of the first fight. He was going to be making the same amount of money as Malignaggi; he would have had to agree with a higher weight; he’d have to agree to a bigger ring; he would have to agree to fight anywhere except California and Texas, and on and on. He reminded me and I agreed, hey! We won the fight!”
COTTO YES-HATTON NO
Paulie can fight; there is no question about that. So can Diaz, but Malignaggi cannot accept he loss to Ricky Hatton.
“I don’t mind the loss to Cotto,” said Paulie. “I know he’s not a second rate fighter, but Ricky Hatton, I don’t care what anybody tells me, Ricky Hatton is one of the nicest guys I ever met in boxing, but that’s as far as it goes. He’s not that good of a fighter.”
For the record, Malignaggi picks Cotto over Pacquiao.
October 15, 2009