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Death threats still haunt Joel Diaz and Timothy Bradley

Trainer Joel Diaz (right) and Timothy Bradley pictured at Bradley's new gym.
Trainer Joel Diaz (right) and Timothy Bradley pictured at Bradley's new gym.
Chris Farina, Top Rank

Joel Diaz has read the death threats. The trainer of Timothy Bradley received them in all forms after his fighter was awarded a controversial decision victory over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012. Emails, letters and telephone calls threatened him as well as his fighter. To say that Diaz and Bradley want to put the Manny Pacquiao controversy in their rear view mirror would be an understatement.

“There were insults and we had to carry a weight on our backs,” said Diaz on Saturday as he and Bradley go into countdown mode ahead of this weekend’s rematch at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. “We’d go to events and people would be insulting me, talking about the fight and getting negative…people considered us a thief.”

While controversial decisions are certainly part and parcel of boxing there are perhaps no more fervent fans in the world than those of Manny Pacquiao. When Pacquiao was announced as the loser in the fight that most everyone except two official judges believed he won the people’s rage was taken out on Diaz and Bradley. Bradley admitted the outcry affected him to such an extent that he nearly sunk into depression.

“We were never comfortable because we have families,” explained Diaz of the threats. “All we did was go to work, fight and we tried to give the people what they wanted to see. We aren’t the judges.”

When a Pacquiao rematch didn’t come to fruition Diaz and Bradley made an effort to forge on past Pacquiao and the questionable decision. There was the fight of the year win over Ruslan Provodnikov and later a victory over Juan Manuel Marquez one of the world’s pound-for-pound best who had starched Pacquiao in his previous bout. Bradley out boxed Marquez and won a convincing decision in a signature performance to raise his record to an undefeated 31-0.

But none of that has really been enough to wash away the stain of the Pacquiao decision that has hung around their necks like a dead albatross for nearly two years. As a result, Diaz and Bradley have their minds set on winning the rematch so convincingly that nobody will be able to question the outcome.

“This fight has to end all doubts, it has to,” emphasized Diaz. “I know that if the fight goes the distance and even if Bradley has won the fight - I feel like they owe Manny Pacquiao one for the controversy. I just know that if we go the distance and even if Bradley has done enough to win they’re going to give it to Manny. So, we’d like to take a different approach where people say, ‘You guys won.’ We’re not looking for a third fight, we want to be able to go home and finish unfinished business and just move on.”

For the trainer and for the fighter they have pulled out all the stops in training camp and have worked harder than ever for this fight. Diaz has been in Bradley's corner since he turned pro a decade ago. Together the pair have gone from fighting in small venues for meager paydays to winning multi-million dollar jackpots on the largest stage that boxing can offer. Diaz knows his charge as well as any trainer can know his fighter and his feeling is that this weekend will close the chapter on the Pacquiao saga.

"Every day in the gym, he tells me, ‘Coach there is no way Manny can beat me. There is no way. The only way he can beat me is if he knocks me out and he’s not going to.’ says Diaz. "So when he says that and he gives me that aggressive tone of voice in him and that look in his eyes, I believe my fighter because every time he’s said it he’s always proved it.”

Nothing would make Joe Diaz any happier.

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