Rudy Hernandez says Christopher Diaz vs. Masayuki Ito is a 51/49 fight

Junior lightweights Christopher Diaz (left) and Masayuki Ito. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Junior lightweights Christopher Diaz (left) and Masayuki Ito. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank


Tonight from the Kissimmee Civic Center, Christopher Diaz, 23-0 (15), and Masayuki Ito, 23-1-1 (12), square off for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title, on a card that will be streamed on the ESPN+ platform.


Rudy Hernandez, Ito’s trainer, said of the combatants, “I think they’re somewhat identical in style, so it’s like two guys fighting each other,” at least in terms of mirror images.


If you see a Japanese boxer in the States, chances are you’ll see Hernandez in that corner. It’s because of his younger brother, the late Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez, who was promoted for much of his career by Teiken Promotions and became a staple in the Japanese boxing scene.


“From that moment on, that’s when the relationship began,” said Hernandez. “It opened up a few doors.”


Chicanito was with Teiken from 1990 to 1997 and, to this day, Hernandez has a close association with the respected Mr. Akihiko Honda, and his company. When boxers who are represented by Teiken come to California to train, it’s most likely Hernandez will be in charge of the camp. And he racks up the frequent flyer miles with numerous trips to the “Land of the Rising Sun” throughout the year.


When asked to describe Ito, Hernandez told, with a laugh, that his biggest frustration is he’s “a little smarter than he should be.” When asked to expound upon that, he added, “He always thinks things out and sometimes its not a good thing. Don’t think – react. But other than that, he’s disciplined, hard worker, no problems making weight. We expect to see a really good fight.”


So this Japanese fighter isn’t exactly a kamikaze?


Junior lightweight Masayuki Ito. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Junior lightweight Masayuki Ito. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank


“I wouldn’t say that,” said Hernandez, when asked if he wished his charge was more aggressive. “He’s a fighter that likes to come forward, and the only thing I want him to do is to throw four, five-punch combinations, not just one-twos – like typical fighters today.”


As for what he’s expecting versus “Pitufo,” Hernandez states, “I’m expecting a very hard, tough fight. I think it’s a 51/49 fight, depending on who you like. It’s that close of a fight; I think. They’re pretty much equal on everything, in speed, in ability and the way they fight. We won’t know till the bell rings but, on paper, it seems like it’s going to be a 51/49 fight.”


Ito will attempt to become the latest Japanese world champion, joining WBA “regular” bantamweight titlist Naoya Inoue, WBO flyweight beltholder Sho Kimura, WBC junior flyweight titleholder Ken Shiro, Ryoichi Taguchi and IBF strawweight titlist Hiroto Kyoguchi. It seems like it is a bit of a golden age for Japanese boxing.


“I think there’s some truth to it but also Japan has opened its doors to the WBO and the IBF, as well,” Hernandez pointed out, “where in the past, they only wanted the WBA and WBC.”





This past Tuesday, I went up to Big Bear to see Abel Sanchez at the Summit, and he had a new pupil, heavyweight hopeful Joe Joyce, 5-0 (5), who was in need of a new trainer, after the retirement of Ismael Salas.


“He seems to want to work hard; he’s a big man,” said the noted trainer, after he put Joyce through the paces on his first day at the gym, where he worked alongside WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and undefeated junior welterweight contender Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin. “I’ve seen some of his tapes; he can crack a little bit. It’s just a matter of getting him in better shape, and trying to get him to be a little more technically sound. His punches are not the best, technique-wise, but, when you’re willing to work, it’s easy to get to the point where they can be perfect.”


Sanchez also reflected on Murat Gassiev’s recent loss to newly-crowned undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final, in which he was out-boxed conclusively over 12 rounds, last weekend, in Russia.


“I’ve been preaching every day to the guys that we’re not trying to be Mike Tyson. We’re trying to box, try to learn how to manuever, to get distance but sometimes it takes something like this to make you realize there’s more to do in this than just trying to knock somebody out,” Sanchez said of Gassiev’s first career loss.


“I know that’s what I like from him but you can also do it by setting somebody up.”


And Martin is now working toward his first round match-up against Josh Taylor in the WBSS 140-pound tourney. The talented Taylor is favored by many pundits to walk away with the Muhammad Ali Trophy. Sanchez admits, “It’s a big challenge. That’s an exceptional fighter that’s got a lot of push, a lot of hype behind him. So right now, he’s on cloud nine; right now, in his mind, he’s the best 140-pounder.


“We’re going to have to be at our best to try to beat him. Obviously it’s a step up for Ryan but these are the kind of steps that make a fighter.”





Here’s this week’s episode of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” with Mario Lopez and Yours Truly:





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