By Francisco Salazar
Joseph Diaz Jr. is unbeaten, has a solid promotional team behind him, and is likely favored to win a lot of fights in the near future.
But Diaz is not content with just having that. Despite going through 10 opponents rather easily thus far as a pro, he wants to get better because that opposition could push him to become a better fighter.
What a concept, right?
He will face his toughest opponent thus far tonight when he takes on Ramiro Robles in a 10 round bout at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
The bout will precede the main event bout between Alfonso Gomez and Ed Paredes. Both bouts will be televised live on Fox Sports One and Fox Sports Deportes at 10PM ET/ 7PM PT.
Diaz is coming off a one-sided six round unanimous decision over former world title challenger Luis Maldonado on April 26. He will be fighting in his first scheduled 10 round bout against Robles, even though he is used to sparring that many rounds.
"I've been mentally ready to fight 10 rounds," Diaz told Boxingscene.com in a telephone interview on Monday evening. "My fight with Robles was first scheduled for 10, then to eight, and now back to 10. I feel great. This is a big step up for me. I'm in great shape because I spar 10-12 rounds anyway."
At 21 years of age, Diaz has the world ahead of him. He's Mexican-American, appeals to young boxing fans, and has been given praise by numerous writers as a possible future world champion.
Those attributes could fill a lot of 21 year olds to cut corners or to not apply themselves to work hard in the gym. Not Diaz, as he is eager to want to get better and show he is not a flash in the pan.
"I know there's a lot of distractions, but I'm very fortunate to live with my Dad and have him as a trainer," said Diaz, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. "He helps me stay focused and not get carried away."
"Robles is a good fighter. He has one loss and is coming into this fight (tonight) to shock me and everyone. He's coming to win. Nobody has heard of him, which makes this a dangerous fight for me. But, I'm very fortunate to have my Dad and I put in a lot of work in the gym for this fight."
Diaz does not have to look far to someone who he admires and looks up to while growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of South El Monte. He has looked up to Oscar De La Hoya, a fellow United States Olympian, Mexican-American, and someone who grew up in the greater Los Angeles area.
While it is still too early to tell whether Diaz will have a career that is similar to De La Hoya, it is a good aspiration for Diaz to look up to.
"As a young kid, I saw Oscar as my motivation. Just like me, he had a hard life growing up in East L.A. and for him to be as successful in life, especially now, it's something that I want to do."
"Another fighter I admire is Floyd Mayweather. He's a hard worker and the best fighter in boxing today. He's also my motivation because he's always in the gym. He gives me that extra boost while I'm in the gym."
There is a lot of upside to Diaz, where he has yet to reach his ceiling. When he does, it will be interesting to see what he, and his fellow Olympians, will accomplish as a pro.
One thing that will help him out is his discipline in the gym. Wanting to stay sharp and be self-motivated, Diaz has the right outlook on a sport that does not reward or forgive shortcuts in the sport.
"I may not be the best fighter, but I've learning a lot. I want to fight the best fighters out there."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing