Joseph Diaz Jr. to face Jorge Lara in WBC eliminator on September 16
Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. had always known he was going to fight on the HBO Pay-Per-View undercard supporting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin on September 16 but against whom and what the stakes were going to be for the young contender were a mystery to the public until Monday morning. The undefeated featherweight will take on Jorge Lara, also unbeaten, in a 12-round WBC eliminator, in which the winner will earn a mandatory shot at titleholder Gary Russell Jr.
At Monday’s open media workout for Canelo and “GGG” in Los Angeles, Diaz, 24-0 (13), showed up to the event with the news of his new opponent, and spoke with UCNLive.com on the way out of the event, in between the instances in which fans asked the fresh-faced 24-year-old for a photo op.
“Since the Olympics, when I was over there in London (in 2012), I was taking a whole bunch of pictures ’cause a lot of people wanted to take pics with the USA Olympians. It’s cool,” said Diaz if he’s gotten used to strangers who know your name and prove they’ve met a renowned athlete. “It was pretty overwhelming but it’s motivating as well. This is it, man. This is what it’s gonna take – I gotta keep on progressing, keep on getting better and then I’ll have fans like this all the time.”
In his second outing of 2017, Diaz, South El Monte, California, will grace another HBO Pay-Per-View headlined by Canelo but, unlike his unanimous decision win over then-undefeated Manuel Avila, the stakes will be much higher.
“This is the fight that is going to make me fight for a world title,” said Diaz with excitement. “This is the mandatory, so whatever Lara brings – if he wants to bang in there, I’m going to go out there and bang too, as the co-main event, and give the fight fans what they want to see.”
For a few years now, Diaz has been no stranger to the local boxing media and it didn’t seem all that long ago when Rene Alvarado was considered a step-up fight on Diaz’s debut on HBO Latino. Eight wins later, Diaz goes into what should be considered not only his toughest test to date but his most important.
“I think the biggest difference is my composure inside the ring and being able to adjust,” said Diaz, comparing himself now and then. “Training hard, dieting as well, are some of the key factors but I personally just think the composure in the ring. Getting all the experience fighting good, strong opponents is gonna make me well-prepared to beat Lara, come September 16th.”
Fighting out of Guadalajara, Mexico, Lara, 29-0-2 (21), is looking for his first world title shot as well.
“Come fight night, I’m going to be the bigger guy in there,” said Diaz about his opponent. “Everybody says that he has power but I have power too. He knocked out, I believe, it was (three-division titlist Fernando) Montiel but (Lara) was a small 126-pounder. He’s going to be fighting a guy walking inside the ring, come fight night, at 140. I’m going to be stronger, so I’d like to see how his power is when he faces me because I know I’m going to be able to take his shots and I know I’m going to be stronger as well.”
Getting this mandatory was a bit of a hurdle for Diaz. He found out last week he was facing Lara but, for the past six weeks, he trained for an opponent yet to be named. Josh Warrington, an undefeated prospect out of England, was originally picked by the WBC to be Diaz’s opponent in the eliminator and, once his name was evoked, Diaz had some choice words in response.
“He’s a pussy. He’s a chump. I don’t respect him at all,” said Diaz. “The reason why I don’t respect him is because I tweeted him to make the fight happen. He tweeted back giving me my acknowledgement, saying that he was going to make the fight happen. We went all the way to a purse bid and he ended up backing out. It’s bull crap. If he really wants to become a champion, if he really wants to become what he says he wants to become, then he’s going to have to fight tough opponents, sooner or later. This was a good opportunity for him to showcase his talents – fighting on one of the biggest cards in boxing history. So, the freaking fact that he didn’t accept the fight against me on such a big card, just shows me how cowardly he is, shows his true character.”
Diaz also said that not fighting Warrington first meant he would not be in an eliminator on September 16 but an opponent that ranked high enough to qualify – Lara – was found.
“That pissed me off,” he said about the possibility of having to wait. “I told (manager) Ralph (Heredia) to make me a mandatory, no matter what – get me the next opponent on the list and make it happen and he did. Doesn’t matter the opponent – as long as I get that shot.”
Lara, who’s ranked No. 5 by the WBC, is the only man getting in the way of a mandatory position for Diaz (ranked No. 2) and, no matter how it plays out, JoJo expects to be in contention.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time and I know what it takes to compete at a high level inside that ring. I had a 10-week training camp and now we’re down to three weeks, finally knowing my opponent, but it’s not gonna mean anything that I found out with such a late notice – I’m going to be able to adapt to his style, no matter what.”