By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
If he's honest enough, any man who has been in a scrap or two will tell you the truth: He's had his ass kicked. And there are certain men with whom you never want to trifle. If you're lucky, he'll show you the ropes—how to size up a fighter and know when it's better to walk away with your ego and bones intact. It could be his size, or the swagger in his gait. Often, it's the way a man carries himself—a quiet but cocksure demeanor lit by a steely gaze that telegraphs an invitation to blows.
There might be other signs: tattoos, scars, identifies himself as Daniel Diaz.
The 38-year-old Santa Ana man stands taller than 6 feet and carries around 225 pounds. His boyish brown eyes and trim haircut belie a man entering middle age, one whose youthful face is etched with battle wounds from his hard-living ways. Ask, and he'll let you touch the titanium implant below his left eye.
A former Marine who voluntarily submitted his body and mind to the military's grueling interrogation training, Diaz admits he "tuned up" his fair share of enemies when he was a wrestler and kickboxer, as well as when he was a drug runner on the streets. And now, as a businessman in the courtroom. His opponent at one time was the biggest, most controversial clothing brand in the fight game: TapouT.
In his fight against the powerhouse company, Diaz, once a rising star in the action-sports clothing industry, has been bloodied and beaten to the mat. Now unemployed and living in a one-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend, he claims $1,900 per month in unemployment; his last lawyer bill was $16,000. He doesn't wonder why human-resources departments won't call him in for an interview. "It doesn't look good on a résumé," he admits.
He claims TapouT screwed him over by monkey-fucking a contract and putting his own company in a chokehold. On March 28, 2011, Diaz filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging that what began as an agreement to design clothing for TapouT and its distributors ended up with him getting taken to the cleaners. He wants more than $2 million in compensatory damages, in addition to punitive damages, attorney's fees and court costs.
"There were things going on that I wasn't told about," Diaz claims. "Millions of dollars in orders being processed through the company. I was developing, designing gear for TapouT. Over a million dollars in orders I was never told about or paid on."
Yet the man who once stepped in front of gun to try to save a friend, who enlisted in the Marine Corps to avoid getting killed on the streets, who built a business he alleges was stolen out from under him by a bully company admits he's no saint. And if he gets what he says he's due, don't expect him to cut 10 percent to charity.
"I want my fucking money," explains Diaz. "It's not going to be going to an orphanage."
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Diaz grew up on a horse property in Covina. Along with his parents and two younger brothers, he also raised cows. "It sounds good until you get the sheets pulled off you at 5:30 in the morning and are shoveling horseshit before you go to school," he says.
His father worked in an optics-manufacturing plant, while his mother, who later in life earned a master's in human resources and became a vice president for a global company, stayed home and reared three boys. Though Diaz had a fighter's body, he had an artist's heart, and his parents weren't thrilled to see his projects strewn about the house. He struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder and bounced around several high schools; he was suspended frequently and fights were, as he says, "pretty normal."
At Covina's Charter Oak High School, however, Diaz took a freshman-year class that would shape his life. Mr. Chin, an affable instructor, taught graphic arts and became a mentor of sorts to the drifting Diaz. In those days, classes didn't have computers, so Diaz would take a photograph, hand-cut the film with a knife, and build a work station to print out shirts he sold to his friends.
His growing knack for business was rivaled only by his ability to kick a man's ass. And that was during an era in which street gangs were exploding in numbers. "Being in a fight at a party was no big deal " Diaz says. "I've been in some street-cleaning brawls. I've been in a fight where my friend got a Corona bottle to the neck, 65 stitches. Another friend of mine got stabbed at a Circle K. But it kept escalating. Colors had come out, and things changed. Everybody's a gangbanger now. Everybody's a Crip, a Blood, a Rolling 60s. Covina, San Dimas, Glendora, Azusa and Pomona. So we're in there. It's on."
The escalating violence prompted a move after high school from the San Gabriel Valley to Big Bear. After "a season," he came back down the hill and immediately picked up where he left off—chasing tail and fighting whoever wanted some. In the winter of 1993, Diaz—who rolled with white boys, blacks and Mexicans—showed up at a party in Covina and commenced to knocking the hell out of a man, putting him on his ass .