4 YEARS LATER: REMEMBERING OSCAR “EL TORITO” DIAZ

September 19, 2019

Oscar Diaz with Punchline Editor Simon Ruvalcaba

 

Simon Ruvalcaba

It’s been four years since I received a text from one of my Army Boxing coaches Ben Sandoval. When replayed in my head the phone drops in slow motion before hitting the ground. If you didn’t know about San Antonio’s Oscar Diaz, here’s a reminder of who he was through my eyes. There are many friends that you make in boxing, but the times are very few when you make a genuine bond with another fighter. More odd, when you are in the same weight class with the possibility of someday facing each other. Here’s a throwback article I wrote after Oscar passed:

NEXT TIME NEVER CAME: R.I.P. OSCAR DIAZ

In the ring it is either a hard shot that knocks you down or a flurry of fast shots on the point that you never saw coming. Last week I didn’t expect to lose my senses from looking down to read a text message. I received a text message from my former assistant Army coach Ben Sandoval that read: ‘Oscar Diaz died today.’ I then instantly lost grip of my phone in one hand and the folder I was carrying in the other. Life isn’t promised, but whether you are religious or not, you can’t help but question why a once promising and full of ambition athlete would find misfortune and be gone at 32?

In 1999 when I fought for the Fort Hood Army boxing team, San Antonio’s Oscar Diaz was the man to beat in the 139 pound division. Nicknamed ‘El Torito’ (the little bull) because of how he reminded so many of another San Antonio star, Tony Ayala. Oscar was gaining attention for his always attacking and vicious body punching style. It was clear to local audiences that he was made for the pros. The chemistry with his original coach out of San Antonio Pat Gonzales was evident in the way they worked mitts in warm ups for a fight. It was actually on a card that we both attended but that neither one of us fought on that we started a conversation that formed our friendship. Oscar shared his goals and his hopes, it was one of those conversations you have and then you can’t help but root for the athlete afterwards.

He was highly touted and after failing to qualify for the 2000 Olympic trials he was signed by Lou Duva and Duva Boxing which had just formed. Oscar turned pro in March of 2001. He was on the under card in Lake Tahoe for his second pro fight which was headlined by what turned out to be the legendary Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker’s final fight. It was that fight week that I got to spar Whitaker and off of that sparring session Duva was inquiring about my pro contract, which I wasn’t signed by anybody at the time. I mentioned to Lou that I was friends with Oscar Diaz, whom Lou had become a father figure to. That Wednesday when Oscar got into town Lou told him that there was a local area fighter that he was gonna sign that knew him. It was at the Hotel’s gym he came walking in and we embraced not having seen each other in several months. On that card Oscar won by easy knockout and me along with his trainer Pat chatted afterwards and they gave me advice as at that time I was awaiting my pro debut. Gonzales let me know how busy Lou was, but that if he is interested he was going to sign me and just to be patient for the phone call. In the interim I stubbornly took a fight prior to that happening and lost in my pro debut. The fortunes of my career suddenly turning sideways on what may have been? I did go on to fight on several Duva promotion shows which Oscar was featured on so we got to see each other frequently on the circuit.

  What would turn out to be the last encounter with him as any final encounter, has played out in my head ever since he got hurt against Delvin Rodriguez May 16, 2008. I was a new contributor to fighthype.com and went on my first solo event to cover Chris Byrd vs Diaz’s stable mate Shaun George. It was a reunion of sorts as on the under card my Army teammate Brian Gordon fought Ruslan Provodnikov in Ruslan’s United States debut. Being new to the video side of journalism I was at the show with a newly bought video capable camera.

George upset Byrd in the main event and I was in the George dressing room afterwards conducting video interviews. I had interviews with trainer Tommy Brooks who by this time had taken over as full time trainer for Diaz, which the likes of Jesse James Leija back in San Antonio was critical of Oscar for having left his longtime coach and seemingly stalled in his development? I also interviewed Shaun George, Chad Dawson and Oscar. Back at the hotel I connected to my computer for the first time and a flash screen came on that I quickly clicked on, but it turned out to be my formatting of the memory card in my camera and just like that all the interviews where erased. A few days later I sent Oscar a message on Myspace apologizing that the interview was never going to be seen since it got erased. His response was a simple “It’s okay, we’ll get another one next time.”

Two months later I arranged to train early on July 16 so that I can be home watching Oscar against Rodriguez. When he collapsed as he stood up for the 11th round and the seriousness of the situation was apparent, those words from Oscar of “next time” played in my minds eye as they would for nearly seven years and I would hear that not much progress had taken place in Oscar’s recovery. Since I got the news last week many of our encounters have played in my head. Until I see you next time Oscar, memories will live on! Diaz’s Pro record was 26-3 (12) and included N.A.B.A. and N.A.B.F. titles.

Editors Note: In late July or early August I will be a new Dad! We find out for sure next month but right now they are 60% sure it is a boy, if confirmed, his name will be Oscar Carlos Ruvalcaba, named after Oscar Diaz and another great man that I will write about later!


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5 responses to “4 YEARS LATER: REMEMBERING OSCAR “EL TORITO” DIAZ

  1. Simon — very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. Not to bring any religion, but a man by the name of Paul of Taurus stared, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!”
    Congratulations on the new member of your family! I’m sure Oscar is smiling the you honor him by naming him ‘Oscar.’

  2. Thank you for honoring my cousin. I can see the huge smile on his face and hear the laughter in the room when you decided to name your son after him. Oscar will always live on thanks to your memories and article.

  3. Wow Simon, thanks for the memory. I was actually at the Lake Tahoe fight as i was stationed at Travis AFB in Cali. My Ex wife, my then 1 year old daughter and I attended the fight and saw him.

    As I read your article, it brought back many memories of Oscar and the love he had for boxing and his family! We miss him dearly!

    Thank you for the reminder and thank you for your service!

    By the way, oscar is my cousin and everyday i see him on my arm with the tattoo i etched into my skin. He is my reminder that to do what you love, even if it is something that will be the death of you!

    Pedro Vasquez

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