By Keith Idec
Jorge Diaz admits arrogance cost him during the biggest fight of his career.
Diaz didn't respect Teon Kennedy, despite that Philadelphia's Kennedy was the best and most experienced opponent Diaz had faced entering their March 2011 fight in Atlantic City. The former New Jersey Golden Gloves champion paid the price against Kennedy (18-2-2, 7 KOs), who dropped Diaz twice and comfortably won a 12-round unanimous decision.
His lone loss led Diaz to prepare differently for fights: everything from the way he eats to the way he spars. The New Brunswick native (17-1, 10 KOs) intends to prove he is a different fighter Friday night, when he meets Miami's Yenifel Vicente (24-1-2, 16 KOs, 1 NC) in an eight-round featherweight fight in West Orange.
The Diaz-Vicente bout, just the third for Diaz in the two years since Kennedy defeated him, will be one of two televised by ESPN2 from Codey Arena at South Mountain, beginning at 10 p.m.
"There's a lot of things I've been working on and I'm looking forward to showcasing Friday night," said Diaz, 25. "I want to go in there and look like a professional fighter. I want to box and move around the ring. [Vicente will] help me be able to do that. I won't have to chase him around.
"This is a perfect fight for me to showcase what I've been working on. I say that, but we'll see what happens."
Diaz's disclaimer comes from knowing he has a lot of Arturo Gatti in him — a preference for fan-pleasing slugfests over safer textbook boxing. His fighting fearlessly has made many of Diaz's fights more difficult than necessary, but also has made him fun to watch.
He knows, however, that fighting that way won't allow him to enjoy a long career.
"I want to prevent the amount of times I get punched in the face," Diaz said, "so I can do what I love for a lot longer amount of time."
That'll require a firmer commitment to defense — something that'll serve him well against Vincente, who won't stop coming forward Friday night (call 888-612-4191 for tickets).
"For this fight, I have the most respect for my opponent I could have," Diaz said. "At the same time, I have the most confidence I've ever had. I'm very, very confident in my abilities in the ring. I can't wait for Friday night."