Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz shelters family, post-Maria, and fights on
Like millions of other Puerto Ricans, Christopher Diaz and his family, in some way, were affected by the ravages of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island last September. Many still don’t have the basic amenities and have been displaced. A multitude of others are still picking up the pieces and it will be years before their lives will have any real source of normalcy.
Diaz, who faces Bryant Cruz tonight from the Madison Square Garden, in New York, as part of the “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN” broadcast, told UCNLive.com, “My family’s good. I brought them here to Jersey to me. They’ve been with me for like three months already. But we lost a lot of material things like furniture, TVs, bed-sets, a lot of things, but life is important and they’re with me and I’m OK with that. So we’re good.”
As for what happens after this weekend, Diaz explained, “We’re going to Orlando, Florida, and we’re going to rent a house there and then I’m going to come back to New Jersey to train for my next fight. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on vacation. I’ve got to be in shape all the time for when I fight.”
The 23-year-old Diaz, 21-0 (13), hails from Barranquitas and says he will be back on the island by mid-December to prepare Christmas gifts for young children in need and aid friends and family. When asked if it’s been difficult to focus on boxing throughout this ordeal, a grateful Diaz simply states, “I’m good – I’m with family.”
As for the business at hand, Diaz’s bout with Cruz gets a prime spot supporting the main event between WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and WBA junior featherweight beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux in front of a national audience.
“He’s a good fighter; he’s only got two defeats with good fighters and I think maybe he’s got the same style as Casey Ramos,” said Diaz, of his original foe for this date. “But December 9th will be a good night. I trained very, very hard, three-and-a-half months. So I’m ready to fight, no matter who it is, no matter what place it is.
“New York is my second house, so I’ve got to give a great show to the fans. My family is going to be here, so I’ve got to give a great show to my family too.”
Diaz is fighting for the vacant WBO NABO 130-pound title but it’s not clear if he will stay in this weight class. Vice President of Boxing Operations for Top Rank Carl Moretti says, “He says he can make 126. I think you’ll see one more fight at this level and then go for a title shot at ’26 or ’30.”
There was a time when “Pitufo” was overshadowed by stablemate Felix Verdejo and was thought of as the “other” Puerto Rican prospect. But as Verdejo’s career has stalled, Diaz steadily progressed and he ultimately gets this spot on ESPN.
“He’s a solid contender that can fight with anybody, other than Lomachenko. I think he’s competitive with a lot of guys at 126 and 130,” said Moretti.
Diaz will soon fight for a major title.
“Maybe in one or two fights more, I just want to be sure that I’m ready for the fight,” he says. “Not just take a fight and lose but win the fight and take the title and become the 65th champion of Puerto Rico. That’s why I don’t want to take too long on vacation. I want to get back in the gym and keep preparing myself.”
So what are Diaz’s thoughts on Miguel Cotto, who recently retired?
“He fought the best in boxing, Manny Pacquiao, (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.), a lot of great guys like (Saul) ‘Canelo’ (Alvarez). He’s going to enjoy his life, his family. I’m so proud of him because he did a great, great job. He’s the first Puerto Rican champion of four weight divisions, so I wish the best for him and his family. Miguel Cotto was a great fighter. I wish him the best vacation in life.”
So what’s the latest with Verdejo, 23-0 (15), who last fought on February 3, winning a rather lackluster 10-rounder over Oliver Flores?
“You’ll see him the first quarter of next year,” said Moretti. “We’re working on a couple things.”
There are questions about Verdejo’s dedication to the game but Moretti says, “I believe he’s committed to the sport.”
Here’s a full, two-hour edition of “The Next Round,” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly.
K2 Promotions Managing Director Tom Loeffler joined Mario Lopez and me, in-studio, for this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule.”
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