By Francisco Salazar
Jesus Rojas may be in the driver's seat in his clash tonight against Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz, but he believes he has a lot to prove. Despite holding a world title belt, Rojas believes he is amongst the elite of a very deep weight class.
Beating someone like Diaz and the other titleholders at 126 pounds will give him more validity that he is the best.
Rojas squares off against Diaz in a 12 round bout tonight at The Avalon in Hollywood, California. The fight will headline a four-bout 'Facebook Watch' stream, that begins at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
At Friday's weigh-in, Diaz tipped the scale at 126.6 pounds, over half a pound above the featherweight limit. Diaz weighed again at the two-hour deadline, but again weighed 126.6 pounds.
According to the rules of the WBA, Diaz is not eligible to win the title and Rojas will remain the champion, win or loss, after tonight's fight.
Rojas (26-1-2, 19 knockouts) will be defending his WBA title for the first time since knocking out Claudio Marrero in the seventh round in Las Vegas on Sept. 15. Rojas won the interim title, but the sanctioning body elevated him to 'regular' champion.
The 31-year-old Rojas could coast to a victory, but he believes Diaz will be just as motivated to win, despite yesterday's indiscrepencies.
"Diaz is an excellent fighter," Rojas told Boxingscene.com in a recent interview. "He's a different toe of southpaw than the ones I've faced before. My team and I have studied him very well. We's seen tapes on him and we have prepared for anything Diaz throws at us."
Diaz has demonstrated he can box or brawl in previous fights. Rojas is a puncher, which could produce several great exchanges between the two.
Rojas knows he is fighting in Southern California, near Diaz's hometown of South El Monte. Rojas believes Diaz brawling or coming forward will play into his hands.
"I play off what the other fighter does sometimes," said Rojas, who resides in Caguas, Puerto Rico. "I don't leave nothing to the judges. I go about winning one round at a time, but I also like to go to war. I'm almost a complete fighter."
As far as looking at the future, Rojas is hoping tonight's fight will be a gateway to facing the best in the division. Rojas will turn 32 years old on Dec. 26 and there is no telling when his body will force him to move up to 130 pounds.
Rojas wants to fight the best and is hoping the WBA finalizes a fight with 'Super' champion Leo Santa Cruz or he could face one of the other titleholders at 126 pounds.
"I was supposed to fight the winner of the second Santa Cruz-Abner Mares fight, but that did not go through. I don't think Santa Cruz wants to fight me, but I hope the WBA forces that fight to happen."
"I don't want to say I'm the best, but I don't think any featherweight can beat me. Diaz is one of the best featherweights and I believes my status in the division will increase when I beat him. I'm more confident in the ring, but I remain humble out of it. Ask the people in Puerto Rico or fans who've met me. I just want to do the best I can every time I fight."
*Reporter's Note: The interview with Rojas took place last Friday, a week before the weigh-in where Diaz did not make weight.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing