Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz made a successful return tonight in his hometown of Houston, Texas, dominating Fernando Garcia en route to a ninth round stoppage win. It was Diaz's first fight since 2014.
If you didn't see Diaz (41-4, 20 KO) during his initial comeback run in 2013-14, or didn't watch him tonight, now this much: he's still pretty much the exact same Juan Diaz who won three world titles at lightweight between 2004 and 2007. He is also still pretty much the exact same Juan Diaz who retired after a rematch loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2010.
Tonight, Diaz, 32, was in fairly easy against a tune-up sort of opponent, after missing all of 2015. Garcia (30-8-2, 18 KO) gave an effort, but wasn't able to match Diaz's workrate, something that carried Diaz through his peak years as a younger man.
Diaz kept the fight largely in the phone booth, targeting the body a good amount and whacking away with uppercuts coming from both sides. Eventually, Garcia fell, sort of a tree being chopped down by a hatchet, and Diaz finished the fight at 2:24 of the penultimate round.
"I felt a little rust. I give myself a B+. But I'm ready to fight again and become a world champion," Diaz said after the fight.
"Mile High" Mike Alvarado also returned to the ring tonight, following a 14-month absence, stopping a spirited but overmatched Saul Corral at 1:25 of round three in a welterweight showcase bout. Alvarado (35-4, 24 KO) picked up his first win in three years, snapping a three-fight losing streak.
Alvarado, 35, looked a little rusty in the opening round, thanks in part to a high punch output from Corral (19-7, 10 KO), who certainly came to fight, throwing punches in combination and looking to do damage early. And he did do a little damage in the short fight, bloodying Alvarado's nose by the end of things. Alvarado got untracked in the latter half of the second round, closing strong with good power shots, and that continued on into the third round.
Alvarado caught Corral with a hard counter left hook early in the third round, shaking the Mexican fighter, and giving Alvarado a chance to pounce, which he did. Though Corral did his best to withstand the heat, Alvarado beat him down with a series of bombs, landing a final hard right hand to close the show, with the referee jumping in for the stoppage without a count.
It remains to be seen whether or not Mike Alvarado, now campaigning at welterweight, will really get back into the mix and become a contender again. But this was the first step, either way. He's back, he looked strong and healthy, and he goes from here. He did get hit a good bit, but he always has. Can he still do that against better opposition?
In a televised welterweight swing fight between the Alvarado and Diaz bouts, Arturo Marquez won his pro debut with a second round stoppage win over Justin Henderson (0-2, 0 KO). In non-televised action, middleweight prospect Esquiva Falcao improved to 13-0 (10 KO) with a fifth round stoppage of Joe McCreedy (15-10-2, 6 KO). Falcao, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Brazil, is being moved along at a steady -- if arguably somewhat slow -- pace, in the true Top Rank fashion, careful handling meant to gain the fighter experience and give him time to fully develop. At 26, Falcao is either a finished product or damn close to it, and should be stepping up the competition a bit sooner than later, probably, at least if he is going to become a legitimate contender.
- Jesse Garcia TKO-2 Christopher Turton (Garcia 3-0, 3 KO; Turton 1-2, 0 KO)
- Abel Mendoza UD-4 Juan Munoz (Mendoza 1-0, 0 KO; Munoz 0-2, 0 KO)