Diaz: Duarte could become Mexico's newest hero

Oscar Duarte could become a Mexican star with a win over Ryan Garcia in Houston, Texas, atop a Golden Boy Promotions card Saturday on DAZN, Robert Diaz recently told ProBox TV.

The Garcia vs. Duarte match is the marquee bout of the weekend. And, though Garcia has fought at junior welterweight before, this show provides him with a chance to re-announce himself as the future of the division.

Duarte, meanwhile, moves up from lightweight to 140 pounds.

Diaz, the former Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker, signed both when he was at the company, and recalled the ProBox what he saw in each fighter, ahead of their bout.

"I signed both of them," said Diaz. "I signed them for different reasons. [With] Ryan I did see something special. I saw not just in what he was doing, he had six or seven fights when Roger Ruiz [Garcia’s former manager] brought him to me.

"When many people would tell me I had the next Oscar [De La Hoya], I got the next [Julio Cesar] Chavez, I got the next [Mike] Tyson. I [saw] Ryan and said, 'Oh, crap!' This kid has a lot of similarities to Oscar De La Hoya. The build, the speed, the look, this kid could be a star, and he was still young."

Diaz added: "He didn’t have the social media at the beginning. It started growing, and growing, and growing. You could see how the fans [were drawing to him]. I remember a card in Fantasy Springs, full of young teenagers. All of these young girls, all over, and I was, like, 'Wow, this is like a young Oscar-type effect'."

'A new hero in Mexico' can announce himself with a win over Garcia

Regarding Duarte, Diaz said: "[He] comes to a Bellasco show [LA Fight Club] on two or three days notice and has to lose overall thirteen pounds in fight week. But just two days before he had to lose nine pounds, and all I could think of was, 'Poorly little blondie.'

"He was so young, he had this ripped body, but he was [cutting a lot of weight]. He was fighting a kid from the east coast that Kelly Pavlik’s trainer [Jack Loew] had [Alejandro ‘Popo’ Salinas], Puerto Rican, decent, and [Salinas] was 3-0, with three knockouts. Four round fight. Oscar might have been like 2-0, one draw something like that. I was like 'He is going to get crushed.'

"I had not seen this kid from the east coast, but he came with a lot of hype, and Pavlik’s trainer had him and said, 'Hey, this is one of the biggest punchers I have had.' He comes in, makes weight, very polite … so he goes in wins the crowd over, the whole arena, Bellasco, the theatre [are screaming his nickname], and he wins the fight.

"So when he steps out of the ring I say, 'Who do I need to talk to? I don’t want to sign you because you won, I want to sign you because you showed so much character. Taking a fight against a fighter 3-0, three knockouts, coming to the U.S. for the first time, and having to cut so much weight. Taking it on short notice, and then going in there and just brawling. You have character I want to sign you'."

At the time of writing, Duarte is a three-to-one underdog to beat Garcia, and Diaz believes if Duarte wins he could become a folk-hero of Mexico — similar, perhaps, to Andy Ruiz Jr.'s overnight stardom when he shook up the world by beating hulking heavyweight Anthony Joshua in a 2019 upset.

"Based on everything — height, reach, speed, and power [Garcia has the edge], but one thing … Duarte has is a chin. He is a puncher [despite going up] in weight. He won’t lose the punch, maybe he will even gain more [power].

"I really think it is a fight that Ryan could’ve gone a different route coming off the loss to Tank [Gervonta Davis]. Ryan took a big risk. It is a fight I tell the fans don’t write it off. You are either going to see Ryan is for real, or you are going to see a new hero in Mexico."