By Jake Donovan
The taste of prime time television didn’t spoil Joel Diaz Jr. It doesn’t sound like much but it means a lot in this day and age.
Diaz was matched tough on Showtime’s Shobox series earlier this year, facing Guy Robb in a battle of unbeaten super featherweights. The two traded knockdowns early before Diaz prevailed by 7th round knockout to make an immediate name for himself as one to look out for in the immediate future.
A lot of fighters in Diaz’ position would’ve demanded a pay raise and live TV coverage for every fight from here on out. Instead, Diaz decides it’s better to just fight as often as possible, cameras or not.
With that mentality comes a stay busy fight versus Yogli Herrera tonight in Chester, West Virginia. There will not be live television coverage, nor does his bout even serve as the main event.
Tonight’s fight… is just a fight.
“Everything remains the same for me,” says Diaz. “Whatever my promoter Boxing 360 brings to the table, I’m always ready for it.”
Diaz (8-0, 7KO) was originally slated to face Georgi Kevlishvili tonight before the Russian lightweight was forced to withdraw. Herrera took the bout on short notice, but the change in opponents didn’t much have much of an effect on what already took place in the gym.
“We were prepared for Kevlishvili, but then we got the call (two weeks ago) that the opponent changed,” Diaz states. “It’s not a big change. Our training stays the same. We keep working for what he brings in the ring. Colombians are known for their power. He has a lot of experience, but that alone won’t put us down. We’re ready for (tonight).”
Though more experience than most of Diaz’ opponents to date, Herrera is actually a step down in terms of class and talent. What tonight is about is a young fighter staying busy, accepting an opportunity against an opponent brought in on short notice.
For those who expect the same Diaz who threw caution to the wind early on against Robb – well, he’ll throw down if it comes to that. But the plan from here on out is to avoid such wars if intelligent boxing and in-fighting can get the job done.
“That fight was a brawl, as everyone saw it. It’s cool to win a fight like that, but not to always have to fight like that,” Diaz points out. “I want to show everyone that I can box like I said that night. I’d rather take it nice and slow. We’re ready to take on rounds.”
The fight was a risk and Diaz was even questioned why he would take such a dangerous assignment on short notice. It turned out to be the risk his career needed, even at such an early stage.
The lesson learned that evening was the way he was training needed to be tweaked. Top trainer Abel Sanchez pointed out that one mistake in the fight with Robb led to his getting knocked down, but that he otherwise delivered a brilliant performance.
Tonight’s bout offers the chance to show what they gained from that night and what has since been worked on in the gym. Whether the fight ends early or goes the distance, Diaz is guaranteed ring activity, which sadly is becoming a fading trend these days.
Last night’s edition of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights was proof that even the best young fighters are affected by inactivity. Unbeaten light heavyweight contender Ismayl Sillakh suffered a shocking eighth round knockout loss in the main event last night. Even in winning every round to that point, Sillakh still bore the look of a fighter who hadn’t seen the ring in months and it eventually caught up to him.
The mentality that Diaz carries in and out of the ring ensures that the 20-year old Californian will never get caught in that situation.
“I stay at the gym. This is my job. I stay for whatever Boxing 360 has for me. If they want me to fight every month, every six weeks, I’m ready. The gym is like my home. I’m ready to fight. I stay ready. As they tell me, you have to stay ready. They can call you a week later. Personally I want to stay ready for whatever comes my way.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com
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