It's Evander Holyfield getting the vast majority of the mainstream media attention. But make no bones about it, and if you want my advice (and that of any diehard boxing fan, probably), don't be fooled into the pay-per-view money: The real fight on Saturday night will be taking place on HBO's Boxing After Dark.
Holyfield will turn 45 next month. Combine the ages of lightweight titlists Juan Diaz (24) and Julio Diaz (27), and you come up with 51. The two champions, combined, are barely older than the real-life version of the final portrayal of Rocky Balboa that will lace the gloves up in Moscow.
Juan, at 32-0 with 16 knockouts, has been the WBA 135-pound champion since 2004. In April, he unified that title with the WBO's after a punishing win over Popo Freitas, beating the Brazilian hero into submission on his stool following the eighth round.
Julio (34-3, 25 KO) has had a career marred with inconsistencies and missed opportunities. In 2003, he nearly was matched up with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., with whom he had frequently sparred. But a first round knockout loss to Juan Valenzuela in 2002 gave HBO pause. Instead of Julio Diaz, they went with Phillip N'dou.
Julio felt he had the tools to seriously trouble and defeat Mayweather. With Floyd now at welterweight and arguably the biggest star in boxing, we'll never find out.
His only other losses have come to Angel Manfredy (2001) and Jose Luis Castillo (2005) -- hardly anything to be ashamed of. And he is currently riding a four-fight win streak, though the most impressive name on the list is Jesus Chavez, who had to bow out early in the third round when he slipped on a painted part of the canvas and blew out his surgically-repaired knee in February.
Julio has fought just twice in the last two years, the mostly-aborted bout with Chavez and a dominating win over tough veteran Ricky Quiles. He beat Quiles for the IBF's interim title. His win over Chavez gave him full stripes.
While Julio has seen long bouts of inactivity, the young Juan Diaz has been busy. He's made seven defenses of the title he won in 2004, and catapulted to the top of many 135-pound rankings. To many, this is the fight that decides who the division's best truly is (personally, I'll still take Joel Casamayor for the time being, with no disrespect to either Diaz).
Almost all analysts will tell you the two following things:
1. Because of his lack of knockout victories, Juan Diaz is an underrated puncher whose power comes through due to volume, pressure, and a great understanding of the body attack. All in all, Juan is basically a 135-pound Miguel Cotto.
2. Juan would be very unwise to underestimate Julio's power. The older of the two Diazes has a terrific jab that sets up good power shots.
But here are some things that I think are vital:
1. Despite Freitas' credentials, he is simply not the fighter he once was, and hasn't been that guy since Diego Corrales submitted him a few years ago. Freitas came out gung ho enough against Juan, but he was getting beaten up and knew it. He lost the champion's heart long ago; Diaz's pressure was way too much for him. Because of this, it isn't terribly off-base to say that Juan still doesn't have a big win, and that Julio would be by far his top victory.
2. Julio's win list isn't terribly impressive either. Don't get me wrong: Both guys have beaten quality fighters. But they're the generation after Castillo, Corrales and Casamayor's ruling of the division. Casamayor is still plugging away at the same weight, but nobody's rushing to fight him. Neither of these two did, that's for sure.
3. Juan's trainer is Ronnie Shields. He'll be working with Holyfield in Moscow. This could make a difference for a 24-year old fighter if he gets in trouble.
4. The style contrast, on paper, makes for a fantastic fight. The two are very evenly matched.
In the big fall schedule, Diaz-Diaz is something of a minor bout, which is stunning. This is a fight with two good, young champions in a competitive, exciting division. Both Juan and Julio still have something to prove, and a win on either side goes a long way to firmly legitimizing the victor, and perhaps even the loser. We know both guys can fight. Just how good they both are will be seen on Saturday.
If you want my bet, it's that both of them are pretty damn good. This is the fight I choose for my Saturday night.