OCTOBER 30, 2006
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Erik Morales isnít taking any chances in his 12-round rubber match against Manny Pacquiao at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 18. The Mexican warrior has tapped Argentinaís legendary cutman Miguel Diaz, whom he calls "El Mago" (The Magician), to join his father Jose (Olivaritos) Morales and Fernando Fernandez in the corner for the "Grand Finale."

Ernesto Castellanos of the Mexican newspaper Esto said Morales isnít discounting the possibility of suffering a cut during the fight and Diaz is his insurance in case a wound is opened.

Diaz has acquired an outstanding reputation as a cutman for a number of world champions, said Castellanos. Diaz, 68, is a cult figure along cauliflower row and has trained 11 world champions and worked with 27 other titleholders, including Roger Mayweather, Pedro Decima, Stevie Johnston, Floyd Mayweather, Irene Pacheco, Diego Corrales and Johnny Tapia.

Morales said his father, Fernandez and Diaz make for a dependable and experienced team in his corner. He added that Diaz is known to work miracles as a cutman.

Moralesí father Jose was a flyweight contender in the 1970s and was nicknamed Olivaritos because of his resemblance to Mexican boxing great Ruben Olivares. He still owns the building in Tijuana where Morales was born and trained as a boy. The building was recently renovated and has a boxing gym.

Morales started boxing at the age of five and logged a 108-6 amateur record before turning pro in 1993. His father was a fixture in his corner throughout his amateur and professional career until the loss to Zahir Raheem in September last year.

Moralesí manager Fernando Beltran assembled a new team to work his corner for the Pacquiao rematch early this year and also moved his training camp from the high-altitude Otomi mountains, 3000 meters above sea level, to Queretaro. The changes went for naught as Morales was halted for the first time ever by Pacquiao in the 10th round.

Morales has since recalled his father as trainer and returned to the Otomi mountains to prepare for Pacquiao.

"My training in the rematch didnít go as I wouldíve liked," said Morales. "It was a mistake to train in Queretaro. Now, Iím back to my customary training grounds with my father."

Morales also mentioned his left shoulder bothered him while training for Pacquiao in the rematch. But for the "Grand Finale," he said heís ready to rumble. His physical condition is 100 percent and Morales guaranteed he will make the 130-pound limit at the weigh-in the day before the fight.

South African nutritionist Jon Jon Park, who is supervising Moralesí weight program, said there will be no problem at the scales.

"It wonít happen again that he will get weak because of weight reduction," said Park. "Morales will be much better for the fight with no weight problem. Otomi is a good place to train. The vibes are good. It will show in the way Morales will fight."

Diaz was the cutman in Omar NiŮo Romeroís corner when the Mexican challenger dethroned Brian Viloria for the World Boxing Council (WBC) lightflyweight title at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas last August.

Diaz and Freddie Roach were in opposite corners for the Romero-Viloria fight. They will again work in opposite corners for the Pacquiao-Morales rubber match.

Diaz told The STAR he was once tapped by Filipino promoter Gabriel (Bebot) Elorde to work Filipino fighter Catalino Floresí corner in a California bout in 1972. That was when he learned what the Filipino word "tubig" meant. He recalled Flores winning the fight.

Diaz has lived in Las Vegas for nearly 35 years and has been involved in boxing as a trainer and cutman for 30 years.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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