The Come Up: Joseph Diaz Jr.
With a sense of knowing what awaits him in in 2018, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. has recently started a rallying cry through his social media that signifies the impending opportunity ahead of him.
“It’s kind of my own thing, my own motive and my own little slogan that I have going.” Diaz told UCNLive.com at a media workout last week. “It motivates me a lot more and I’m glad people are getting used to it and starting to write, ‘The Come Up’ a lot in my comments and stuff like that. ‘Cause that is my little thing that I have going on.”
In tonight’s main event on ESPN2 (11:30 p.m. ET /8:30 p.m. PT), Diaz will take part in what’s sure to be the prelude to his first world title shot – a fight the 25-year-old has been awaiting for a couple years now. Diaz takes on 35-year old Mexican veteran Victor Terrazas, in his first fight of 2018, and within his explanation to tune-in and watch a fight he’s expected to win, Diaz wants to make a statement.
“Because I am going to be the 126-pound champion,” Diaz explained. “This fight is going to be a very exciting fight because – this is a stay active fight – but this guy is no walk on the water. He’s a very tough fighter, a very experienced fighter. He has all the experience inside the ring, so it’s going to be a very exciting fight. It’s not gonna be just any typical fight and I want to go out there and perform offensively a lot more, showcase to everybody that I do have that offensive power and that speed and that skill level, where I could get a guy out of there. Come Thursday night, I want to showcase to everybody that I’m the real business.”
Terrazas, 38-4-2 (21), has worked toward this opportunity since making his comeback in 2016, after three years out of the game. From Guadalajara, Terrazas prepared himself at the Azteca Boxing Gym in Bell, California – where Thursday’s media workout took place – and he too gave his thoughts about the fight, in a conversation with UCNLive.com.
“I characterize myself as a man who puts everything in the ring: I give my all,” Terrazas said in Spanish. “It’s an important fight, not only for me but also for Joseph Diaz. A lot of people think I’m finished, that I’m done with my career, but I feel like I’m in a good place in my career right now to keep going.”
In what he described as a stay-busy fight, Diaz will get to showcase his argument for featherweight legitimacy on a different stage compared to his two fights in 2017, which both came on HBO Pay-Per-View undercards.
“Yeah, there was a lot of disappointment,” Diaz admitted in response to only fighting twice last year. “I really wanted to stay active in 2017 and I thought I was going to be more active but I can’t me really mad because I did fight on two of the biggest cards in 2017. It was still a blessing to be on those cards but, 2018, we’re looking to fight four times this year, more active and under those lights more often. This fight is free and live on ESPN, Golden Boy’s first appearance on ESPN in 2018. That’s huge. Great exposure and opportunity for me. There’s a lot at stake for me. I really gotta make a statement not only for myself but Golden Boy Promotions, as well. So everyone can be tuning in to Golden Boy shows from here on out.”
Diaz, 25-0 (13), is a fast-handed southpaw with a sound technique and solid defensive awareness. Trained by his father, Diaz is at his best when on the offensive attack and Terrazas presents a style that will allow him to do so. Terrazas has been stopped in all four of his defeats and Diaz hopes he can end a unanimous decision streak of three against him. Although he hasn’t been able to get a knockout for the past year-and-a-half, Diaz has basically pitched three shut-outs in those outings. Knockout or not, however, Diaz needs a win to keep his rallying cry from coming up short, then the big fight is sure to come.
“Yeah. This is it,” Diaz said on this being the last fight before his title shot. “We were trying to get a fight with (WBC featherweight titleholder) Gary Russell (Jr.) in February. Unfortunately he didn’t accept the fight, so he has until May to fight me. If not, he’s gonna have to give up the title. So I’m gonna be fighting for a world title in May. This is a stay-active fight but it’s not just an easy fight for me. (Terrazas)’s a tough fighter. I want to gain the experience and fight these tough fights because, once I do get that WBC title around my waist, I don’t want to just have that title – I want to defend it for many years – so by gaining all gaining all the experience with these veteran fighters, it’s just gonna make me a better fighter from here on out.”
With a No.1 contender ranking within the WBC, Diaz will keep his mandatory position with a win tonight. Russell, of course, fights across the aisle within the fragmented boxing universe but, considering he has already partaken in a fight with WBC junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko, there’s no reason to believe the fight can not be marred by the political divide – especially since it’s a mandated fight to keep the title. Diaz has been calling out Russell for about two years, since cracking the Top-3 of the WBC rankings and, considering Russell isn’t the most active of fighters, Diaz was asked if that mishandled career has, in turn, affected his as he’s endured his wait.
“Yeah, well, it’s not affecting my career at all ’cause Golden Boy Promotions and (manager) Ralph Heredia are doing a tremendous job for me, man,” said Diaz. “They always told me patience was the key and they’re right. I mean, if I was a world titleholder in 2016 or 2017, I probably would’ve been having really tough fights and I probably wouldn’t have been ready like I am right now. Getting experience, all the knowledge, and fighting on such big stages that I have been, I feel like I am ready now. It’s unfortunate that Gary Russell Jr. only fights once a year but that’s gonna change. He has until May.”
When asked to compare what situation he’d rather have, Diaz would, of course, like to fight the man who holds the title rather than fight for a vacant one.
“That’s what I want. I don’t want anybody thinking that I’m trying to make him vacate the title or anything because I’m calling out Gary Russell right now: Gary Russell, let’s fight. I really want to show everybody that I want to fight the best fighters and I can beat these world champions at my weight class. If it so happens Gary Russell vacates the title, I’ll fight for the vacant title and I’ll call out the other champions in the weight class and try to unify the other titles.”
Recently, on Russell’s side of the street, Showtime featured an event announcing the first half of its 2018 boxing schedule and the WBC featherweight titleholder’s name was one of few notable ones missing, which is a good thing for Diaz, who thinks May 5 on the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rematch undercard would be a perfect date for The Come Up.
“That’s what I really want,” Diaz proclaimed. “Cinco de Mayo, man – co-main event – oh my God; that would be great.” Asked to give odds on that actually happening, Diaz responded, “It’s hard to say ’cause, you know, Al Haymon and Gary Russell are with the different networks. I feel like they’ll probably want to fight on Showtime. I think it’s about 70% odds that it might happen. Fingers crossed.”
Whether or not Russell does make the deal, Diaz hopes he can take the title and make something of it. Fights like these this tonight will soon be a thing of the past days because, once having the title, Diaz feels like there is an obligation to make the best fights in that position.
“It’s very important to me. It’s important to my career and legacy,” Diaz said about the notion. “It’s important to all the fight fans that tune in and watch these great fights and support boxing. I want to be out there showcasing my talents with another talented fighter, with another world champion. I want to go out there and perform against an elite fighter. It’s very hard to get an opportunity and a title shot when you don’t have that title but I feel like, once I get it, it’s gonna bring more value to the table for these other champions. They’ll be willing to fight me then.”