Diapers come off talented trio

Jul 13, 2004 4:24 AM

Main Events is taking the diapers off three of its brightest undefeated kids and Carl Moretti, the Jersey-based company’s matchmaker and vice president, jokes it could cost him his job.

That is highly unlikely, but a triple-header of 12-rounders, a first for HBO (not counting pay-per-view, of course), emanating from Houston on July 17 does contain the possibility of at least a couple of upsets. The problem is finding some place to get the bet down.

There was no line at the Caesars Palace sports book when I checked the other day, discovering only that Nero’s, the new steak house there, is spectacular. Moretti’s fights could be almost as good and when I say "diapers off," I mean of course, the kids are no longer being Pampered.

Only one of Moretti’s kids, Rocky Juarez, seems to warrant whatever odds would be in his favor. Juarez has already established himself as a featherweight contender, not just a prospect. The 2000 Olympian will be facing his 1996 counterpart, Zahir Raheem. In addition to the home-court advantage, Juarez (20-0 with 14 KO’s) should have too much firepower for Raheem (25-0, 15 KO’s but not as big a puncher).

Raheem is cute, but I remember him having all kinds of trouble back in 1997 with Lionel Odom, one of my "homeies" from Brooklyn. Odom was one of the best-looking prospects I had seen in the New York Golden Gloves, but had disappeared on the streets. He had Raheem down twice before the street life caught up and he folded badly, losing on a fifth-round stoppage.

For a couple of rounds, Odom looked as good as I remembered him from the amateurs (he went into the Raheem fight with a sub .500 record as a pro). But Juarez is every bit as talented as Odom was, plus they don’t call him "Rocky" for nothing. He is granite and worth every bit of favoritism if you can find a line on this.

There’s a world title fight on the card and Moretti’s kid, Houston native Juan (Baby Bull) Diaz (24-0, 12 KO’s) would probably be the hometown choice over WBA 135-pound champion Lakva Sim of Mongolia, who is really on the road for this one. Sim, at 32, is a veteran, though I guess you don’t get to fight much in Outer Mongolia because his record is only 19-3-1 with 16 KO’s. But he won a WBA title at 130 pounds and I saw him stop Miguel Callist of Colombia last April 10 in Vegas for the vacant WBA lightweight crown.

Sim took apart the Colombian southpaw quite impressively in five rounds. Callist can not be considered in Diaz’s class, especially when it comes to hand speed. However even fighting a lefty, Sim appears to know what the game is about. Diaz, at just 20, should have too much energy for the Mongolian, but at just 20, sometimes that can backfire. In any case, it should be a doozy while it lasts.

Moretti says the winner would be a good match with any of the other world lightweight champions, whoever they are (okay, one is Acelino Freitas, the Brazilian who defends Aug. 7 in what should be a Showtime classic against Diego Corrales).

The best fight on the card, which marks a real interruption of boxing’s dog days of summer, could be the welterweight clash featuring Kermit Cintron, a spectacular puncher with a 23-0 record and 21 knockouts. It is, of course, too soon to tell, but Cintron does resemble, with his plus 6-foot height and power in each hand, a young Thomas Hearns.

Kermit is a little green (sorry about that, folks) and he should get a significant test challenging for Teddy Reid’s North American Boxing Federation 147-pound title. Don’t be fooled by Reid’s 22-5-1 record with 16 KO’s. The 33-year-old Jamaica-born veteran is one of the biggest punchers in the division. Moretti said "this will be life and death for both of them."

There is a very good chance Reid will test Cintron’s chin. If the kid passes, there may not be anyone in the welterweight division, including the very talented undisputed champion, Cory Spinks, to stop him. I mean, even Kostya Tszyu or Floyd Mayweather Jr. moving up could be in trouble. But first things first. He is no lock to defeat Reid.