by David P. Greisman
It’s been four years since Joseph Diaz Jr. represented the United States in the 2012 Olympics, and in the time since he’s been developing from a featherweight prospect into a young contender who is still a few months shy of his 24th birthday.
Diaz feels he’s nearing a turning point in his career. He’s facing Andrew Cancio on the pay-per-view undercard of Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam Smith, and if he wins on Sept. 17, he believes he’ll be on the fast track of challenging for a belt at 126.
“If I don’t get injured and everything goes well … hopefully I’ll fight in a title eliminator and then get a world title shot by early next year,” Diaz said on an Aug. 29 media conference call before reminding himself, and those listening, that all of this is still speculative.
“Right now my focus is Andrew Cancio,” he said. “I can’t look forward. I’ve got a great opportunity ahead of me that’s going to bring out the best in me. I’m willing to give the fans what they want to see regardless of who the opponent is. I’m willing to make a statement Sept. 17.”
Given the way the Olympics ended for him — Diaz lost to eventual bronze medalist Lazaro Alvarez in the second round of the bantamweight tournament — this has been a good four years.
“My goal when I was an amateur was to be fighting in the Olympics and represent my country and try to bring back a gold medal. I didn’t bring back a medal, but I got Golden Boy’s eye,” Diaz said. “They started watching me and loved the way I fought. I ended up signing with them. They gave me a good contract and they pushed me. I’m already 21-0 and I’ve only been a professional fighter for four years. They’ve been moving me well. Now they want me to fight on a big stage, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”