The Canelo-Chavez support team speaks
Beneath the glitz, the pride, and the extravagance of this Saturday night’s HBO Pay-Per-View event, featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., there are young fighters hoping to one day reach the same pinnacle of opulence, glory and recognition.
For now, they fight on undercards, hoping to raise an eyebrow, as most boxing fans await the main event, and, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s no different. The card celebrates Cinco de Mayo weekend and at a Los Angeles media workout last week, five individuals in this particular situation spoke with UCNLive.com.
Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. isn’t exactly unrecognized in the boxing world but the featherweight contender is seemingly one win away from earning a full-fledged title shot.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for me,” said the 24-year old from South El Monte, California. “I gotta go out there – there’s gonna be millions watching and thousands in attendance – so I gotta go out there and perform at my best and showcase to everybody that I could be the next superstar in boxing.”
Diaz, 23-0 (13), is ranked No. 7 by the IBF, No. 2 by the WBC and recently received a No.1 ranking by the WBO at 126 pounds and the southpaw faces a fellow unbeaten prospect from Fairfield, California, Manuel “Tino” Avila.
“I trained very hard for this fight, said Diaz. “Getting a win over Manuel Avila is just going to put me a step closer or maybe even get me that title shot. He’s an undefeated fighter, a prospect for Golden Boy (Promotions) as well. He’s young, just like me, so there is a lot at stake for this fight for both of us. Whoever wins this fight is going to be the next big thing for Golden Boy at 126 pounds. Let the best man win come May 6th.”
Both fighters step into the ring for the first time in 2017 but Avila, 22-0 (8), looks to overshadow a mediocre performance in his most recent outing. With that Avila fight from last November, a split decision win over Jose Ramirez, offered for his review, JoJo was asked if fighting a tough opponent like himself could make for a better Avila, both mentally and physically.
“I think so,” replied Diaz. “His last fight, he didn’t look too good but it was a bad opponent for him. Avila couldn’t showcase what he usually has because he was just stuck out there. He couldn’t move or create angles because the guy was constantly putting pressure. With me, I feel like he’s probably training extra hard. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve fought big fights already. This is nothing new to me. I’m gonna go out there and do what I do best.”
Diaz, who is trained by his father, revealed he trained for 10 weeks preparing for this fight – something different from his normal eight-week regimen.
“If everything goes well in this fight, I am going to be ranked number one in the WBC and WBO, so whoever gives me the opportunity to fight for that title – I’m going to be willing to take it,” said Diaz. “If it’s (WBC titlist) Gary Russell Jr. or (WBO beltholder) Oscar Valdez, I’m going to fight either one of them after this fight because, like I said before, I’ve been saying that I want to get a world title this year and right now is the time. If I get the victory over Manuel Avila, I’ll have the opportunity. I want to get a title around my waist.”
Diaz-Avila is the opening bout of Saturday night’s card (9:00 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) but featured prior to the bout will be two young prospects on the event’s “free-view” portion.
Ryan “KingRy” Garcia is one of them and is fighting for the first time in Las Vegas – which he claims as his backyard from his hometown of Victorville, California. The 18-year old feels he’s made for the big stage.
“I feel like I was made for that kind of situation,” said Garcia, who’s fighting for a third time under the Golden Boy banner. “It’s coming a little fast but I’m ready for it. I trained my butt off for this fight. Worked with Joseph Diaz Jr., been in there with top guys, sparring them. I feel like I’m prepared and you’re going to see my skills come May 6th.”
Garcia, 8-0 (7), will face his most experienced opponent to date in Tyrone Luckey, 8-6-3 (6). The lightweight contest is scheduled for six rounds and Garcia is riding a four-fight KO streak.
“I’ve been on big stages before in the amateurs. I know it’s nothing like this but it helped me prepare for a lot of people watching me and all that. Then the day you’re in the ring, you’re fighting the guy next to you and that’s all it is.”
Opening the free-view portion is a Mexican fighter making his professional debut. Junior middleweight Raul “El Cugar” Curiel represented his country in Rio De Janeiro last summer in the Olympics and finds himself in a position typically reserved for touted prospects.
“I’m very excited,” said Curiel, who has already learned enough English to converse. “It’s going to be a great night for Mexican people, Mexican fans and a dream come true for me with my debut on this kind of night.”
Curiel, 21, joins fellow prospects and Golden Boy stablemates Jason Quigley and David Mijares as a trio who made their pro debuts on a PPV undercard headlined by Canelo.
“The same Raul Curiel they always see,” he replied when asked what fans can expect in his first impression. “Try to make a good show for the fans and I think I’m going to be the best. I’m gonna try to be the best and win my fight. I know the people know what I can do inside the ring, so it’s no problem for me. I prepared well for this fight.”
Fighting out of The Rock gym in Carson, California and trained by Manny Robles, Curiel was asked to describe his style, to which he answered, “I’m a real fighter. I’m a counter-puncher, a rough fighter.”
Undefeated lightweight Joseph “Diamante” Aguirre has been tabbed to open the entire show Saturday night and he expects his bout to warm up the ring for all the fights that follow.
“I’m from Mexico and we are great fighters,” proclaimed Aguirre, who is originally from Cancun. “This guy I’m fighting is from Sinaloa. My family is from Sinaloa and those are warriors. I know this fight is going to be a great fight to open the night.”
That opponent is Angel Aispuro, 8-4-2 (5), and since moving to Indio, California to train with Joel Diaz, Aguirre, 26, feels he has improved tremendously.
“It’s pretty isolated,” said Aguirre about training there. “It’s a desert, so there’s not much to do but it’s a nice environment. There’s about eight or nine of us in a house. We support each other, so it’s really a focused environment. There’s not a lot of distractions like in Cancun. It’s a different lifestyle.”
As for what he thinks he’s improved upon the most, Aguirre replied, “Mental. Joel is into mental strength, how to beat your opponent mentally during the fight and break him down. He keeps you strong. We go through hell in that camp.”
Looking to score his sixth victory under the Diaz’s tutelage, Aguirre, 16-0 (9), has had good experience sparring with Lucas Matthysse, who – under Diaz as well – makes his return to the ring on May 6.
“Pretty strong. He has a really solid (punch) and his right is really good,” said Aguirre about sparring Matthysse. “I sparred him two or three times and it’s been really good. I like being in the ring with him – the way he moves and the way he hits me, I can take those punches – I feel like I’m doing good.”
Last but not least, Ronny Rios will make an appearance on the card and the 27-year-old from Santa Ana, California has a new form of motivation.
“Everything is great. I just had my son, so it’s great motivation for me,” said Rios when asked how life was going. His first-born son Nicholas was born on March 3 but Dad duties haven’t been a distraction for this camp.
“We had to do it the old-fashioned way,” said Rios. “I had to send my wife and kid away for the whole camp. That adds more motivation. It lit a fire under me, man, when I saw him born.”
Once flirting at the junior lightweight and featherweight divisions, Rios, 27-1 (12), returns to 122 pounds to face an experienced Mexican in Daniel Noriega, 30-10-1 (15).
“He’s a tough guy,” said Rios about his opponent. “Shorter than I am, so you gotta be patient. You can’t try and take out every guy. You gotta slowly but surely try and take him apart with the jab and body work.
“This last camp has been tremendous,” proclaimed Rios, who works out of the TKO Gym in his hometown, under the direction of Hector Lopez. “Every fighter always says that – this camp was the best – but, hands down, this camp was the smartest and most disciplined. I’d go to sleep early and wake up early – I don’t think I’ve done that in a long time. I’m five-and-a-half pounds away from weight, two weeks before the weigh-in, so that kind of shows you how disciplined we were.”
All five fighters are either from Mexico or of Mexican descent and, in the last question of each interview, they were asked to give a prediction for Canelo-Chavez. Interestingly enough, the only ones born south of the border, Curiel and Aguirre, couldn’t give a prediction, citing the same reason.
“I think it’s going to be a war and whoever wants it more is going to take that fight,” said Aguirre. “No, it’s a pride thing,” he replied when asked to give a winner.
“No. I respect both boxers,” said Curiel. “Canelo is a great champion and I respect Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. It’s going to be a great fight.”
As for the Mexican-Americans, there was no hesitation on their predictions.
“I think Canelo is going to win but I think it’s going to be a decision,” said Diaz. “I think it’s gonna be like the Canelo-(Alfredo) Angulo fight but a lot tougher for Canelo because Chavez is going to be a little heavier and stronger.”
“I think Canelo stops Chavez within six and eight rounds,” said Rios.
As for Garcia, he stopped and said, “Canelo,” as if here were answering a dumb question. Following up when asked if Chavez even has a chance, the confident teen simply shook his head and said, “Nope.”