Diaz OK outside glare of spotlight

The final prefight news conference had just concluded Wednesday and the media were three deep around Manny Pacquiao’s table.

Across the room, David Diaz’s entire audience consisted of three reporters, though it would grow to about nine as some reporters had left Pacquiao to hear what Diaz had to say. But that didn’t bother Diaz, nor did the fact he is now a 51/2-1 underdog to Pacquiao even though he owns the WBC lightweight belt that will be at stake when the two meet Saturday at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

"Nah, that’s no concern for me," Diaz said of his not being the focus of everyone’s attention. "He’s done a lot for boxing. I just became champion. Hopefully after this fight, I’ll be the draw."

Diaz said he’s not a gambler, so he couldn’t care less about being a prohibitive underdog. What does concern him is the promotional stunt Top Rank president Bob Arum pulled Monday before Diaz’s arrival in Las Vegas.

The two fighters were at the Santa Monica Pier as part of the final hype for the fight. Diaz, who is from Chicago, is a huge Cubs fan. Arum, knowing that, paraded a goat out to the pier.

Cubs fans are well aware of the "Curse of the Billy Goat" from 1945 when William Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, tried to bring his mascot into Wrigley Field. The goat was denied entrance, and Sianis supposedly put a hex on the Cubs, claiming they would never again win the World Series.

Arum proclaimed that should Diaz defeat Pacquiao, the curse would be lifted and the Cubs, who are in first place in the National League Central Division by 41/2 games, would win the Series.

Diaz was appalled. It was as if he had seen a black cat walk toward the Cubs’ dugout. Or watched Steve Bartman reach for a foul ball in front of Moises Alou.

"Listen, man, when I saw that goat, that scared me," Diaz said. "I started shaking. Imagine if the Cubs start losing. I’m not having that on my ticket. No way am I going to be responsible for the Cubs losing.

"Bartman had to leave Chicago (for his actions during the 2003 NL Championship Series). I love my town. I’m not going to do anything to hurt my town or my team."

Apparently, real Chicagoans take their curses seriously. Diaz, who was born a half-mile from Wrigley Field, is not about to tempt fate. Especially when his team is going so well.

"I said, ‘Get that goat away from me,’ " Diaz said. "I know all about the Curse of the Billy Goat. I don’t want to be near that thing."

Pacquiao had a solution to squash Diaz’s fears.

"We should eat it," he said jokingly.

One thing Diaz doesn’t fear is Pacquiao. Diaz said he is satisfied with the way he has prepared for the 12-round title fight and he’s not ready to relinquish the title without a struggle.

"This is something I worked so hard for," Diaz said. "I have pressure that I put on myself. I have to perform. If I don’t perform, I’m not going to win.

"If I were Manny Pacquiao, I would be concerned about my will. I will be there the entire fight, and I will stay there the entire fight."

• NOTES — Friday’s weigh-in at Mandalay Bay will begin at 2:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Admission is free. The weigh-in will be shown on streaming video on several Internet sites, including HBO.com, Yahoo.com and ESPN.com. … Diaz said Wednesday he weighed 137 pounds and that he would make the mandatory 135-pound limit by Friday with no problem.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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