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Diaz Dazzles Ward for Win

JD Vena from Ringside
MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT RESERVATION- In the co-featured event on the Prince Naseem Hamed & Augie Sanchez featherweight battle, Antonio Diaz, of Coachella, CA, out-hustled a streaking "Irish" Micky Ward, of Lowell, MA, over ten action-filled rounds in a clash of top jr. welterweight contenders.  Though Diaz (rated 1st by the CBZ) and Ward (rated 5th by the CBZ) hold lightly regarded world titles, the two were hoping that a win would solidify their reputations as the most fearsome challengers to the likes of Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell.

    The win for Diaz all but assured a match with Tszyu, which is well deserved before beating Ward last night in front of many Ward's supporters.  In a rare match-up, Ward and Diaz engaged in a fight that probably would not have needed to take place in order to obtain a shot against one of the three alphabet champions.  Their fight, in many ways was a throw back to the days when contenders fought contenders to earn title shots.  Both had already beaten many top-notch opponents over the past few years to earn such consideration.

    Last night, Diaz was more than Ward, a high standard to say the least.  Since his decision loss to Zab Judah, the current IBF champion, Ward had won two crucial career victories over Reggie Green (rated 8th by the CBZ) and Shea Neary (rated 9th by the CBZ).  These victories would not have been possible without Ward's devastating power and his newfound self-belief.  Trailing in both fights, Ward won each fight by dramatic knockout, which is why his contest with Diaz, a more fundamentally sound fighter, was so intriguing.  Diaz, 141, happened to show just as much courage in besting Ward, 140, last night.

    In a cautious 1st round, Ward out-jabbed Diaz, who like Ward, is a notoriously slow starter.

    "I was a little lazy," said Ward. "Then, I tried to fight inside and just couldn't do it."

    Diaz was able to win many of those inside battles because of his high work rate.  When the two were in the trenches, Diaz seemed to throw his punches first and then wisely move out of harm's way before Ward could unleash with his vaunted body assault.  On some occasions, Ward was successful in landing those crippling blows but not before absorbing some of Diaz' body blows and uppercuts.  Diaz, fought a much better fight than in his last fight, a close, 12 round decision win over unheralded Omar Weis.  It was his fight against Weis where some felt that Ward would be too much for Diaz.

    "Coming into this fight, I knew I was facing a tough Micky Ward," said Diaz.  "I knew what his strengths and his best punches were.  When I fought Omar Weis, he was the third opponent they had changed for that date.  I had no idea who I was fighting.  Weis had never fought out of Argentina and I got a little overconfident.  Tonight, I knew what I was in for, a tough fight with Micky Ward."

    The fight got tougher for Diaz during the last two rounds when Ward's determination coupled with his ferocity drove him to outwork Diaz, though judges did not award Ward for his efforts.  Despite his marvelous efforts as the effective aggressor, Micky earned only one of those rounds on the judges' scorecards.  Diaz would win by final tallies of 96-93 twice by Tom Kazmarek and Melvina Lathan and 95-94 (the CBZ's score) by Glen Feldman.  One point was deducted from Diaz by referee Steve Smoger in the 7th round after Diaz landed his third low blow to Ward.

    Ward, who's record slipped to 35-10 with 26 knockouts, was taken to nearby Backus Hospital to be stitched where his left eye connected to his nose.  Diaz also received a deep cut over his left eye and had many nice things to say about his rugged opponent last night.  Both cuts were the result of thrashing punches thrown by both combatants.

    "Micky has so far been one my toughest fights," said the victor.  "I hit him with everything and he took it and gave it right back.  I think that Kostya Tszyu will be an easier fight because he'll be right there for me."

    The win brought Diaz' record to an impressive 33-2, with 24 KO's and 2 no-contests.  Ward is now another impressive name on Diaz' respectable resume but, if none of the champions are willing to offer Diaz a title shot, don't expect him to just sit back and wait.

    "If you want to become a true champion, then you'll fight who ever is put in front of you," said Diaz.  "I'll fight who ever it takes to become champion, I just want the opportunity."

    For true contenders like Antonio Diaz and "Irish" Micky Ward, that's all you can expect.

    Earlier in the evening, Quaker City, CT prospect, Liz Mueller, 133, improved her record to 5-0 with 2 knockouts when she decisioned her toughest opponent, Jane Couch, 134, of Lancashire, England.  Mueller used her aggressive style to befuddle the experienced Couch who had lost for only the third time in 16 fights.

    Veteran, Agapito Sanchez, 125, of La Victoria, Dominican Republic won hard fought 10 round unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Ramirez, 128, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  Sanchez is now 32-7-1, with 19 KO's while Ramirez fell to 21-3 with 9 KO's.

    In last night's swing bout, Massachusetts Heavyweight Champion, Dan Conway, 236, of South Boston lost a 4-round unanimous decision to Warsaw, Poland native, Albert Sosnowski.  The mechanical, Sosnowski, 218, was able to fend off Conway's amateurish (to put it nicely) swings and land a fair number of his own to issue Conway's 4th loss in 16 contests.  Sosnowski improved to 17-0 with 9 KO's.

Promoter - Prince Promotions
Network - HBO
Judges - Clark Sammartino, William Hutt, Luis Pabon, Tom Kazmarek, Glenn Feldman and Melvina Lathan.
Referees - Steve "Double S" Smoger and Michael Ortega
Ringside Physician - Michael Schwartz, M.D.
Timekeeper - Lou Dell

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