Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz was probably expected to score a stoppage win tonight, but though he couldn't get Juan Santiago out of there, he picked up the clear victory on unanimous decision scores of 97-93, 99-91, and 100-90.
Diaz (38-4, 19 KO) was able to hammer away at Santiago (14-11-1, 8 KO) with little to no resistance, slamming into him with left hooks to the head and body and several hard, clean right hands. Tellingly, though, he never really had Santiago in any danger, and this is a club fighter who's been stopped five times in his career.
Diaz, 30, has never been a big puncher, making his mark because of his relentless pressure and volume punching and a good body attack, so that's nothing new or a sign of decline or anything like that. But when Diaz says he wants to get back into the world title mix at 135 pounds next year, it does serve as a reminder that he's a fighter with a ceiling we've seen him reach years ago, most likely. He was also his usual indifferent self defensively, eating plenty of decent shots in return from Santiago.
The good news for Diaz is that the lightweight division is weak, and that if he keeps working himself back into shape, which he appears to be doing, then there's every reason to believe he could pick up a world title. Worse fighters than this version of Juan Diaz win world titles all the time.
Did Diaz look good to you tonight? Do you think he can chase a title successfully in 2014?