MIAMI—Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz got it right the second time around.
The 2012 U.S. Olympian backed up his pre-fight promise of ending Tevin Farmer’s title reign, claiming a well-earned unanimous decision in their 12-round junior lightweight title heat Thursday evening at Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami, Florida.
Scores of 116-112 and 115-113 twice came in for Diaz, who comes up aces nearly two years after suffering his lone career defeat in a May 2018 featherweight title loss to Gary Russell Jr.
The battle of junior lightweight southpaws jumped out to an aggressively tactical start. Farmer dug in and quickly found a home for his jab, working in his left hand quick enough to make sure to slide out of harm’s way whenever Diaz sought to counter. The second-time title hopeful from South El Monte, California found his range late in the frame, scoring with left hands which Farmer absorbed well.
By the end of the first round, Farmer alerted longtime head trainer Raul ‘Chino’ Rivas of an injured right hand. However, he refused to allow it to affect his performance, nor did he use it as the cause for his downfall.
“He put up a hell of a fight. No excuses,” insisted Farmer (31-4-1, 6KOs), whose 24-fight win streak and 17-month title reign both come to a close.
A bout which seemed destined for the scorecards the moment it was announced threatened to end on an injury in round two. Farmer did his best to avoid Diaz’s power shots, dipping his head low only to come in the wrong way. The sequence left Diaz with a finger-deep cut over his left eye, which prompted referee Samuel Burgos—through orders of the Florida commission—to have the doctor examine prior to the start of round three.
“It never bothered me,” Diaz insisted to DAZN’s Chris Mannix after the win. “I just pretended it wasn’t even there.”
Diaz came out with a sense of urgency, firing off left hands in hopes of forcing Farmer on the defensive. It didn’t immediately take, as the Philly-bred titlist stayed in the pocket long enough to effectively counter in round four. Farmer played defense when necessary, working his way back inside towards the end of the round.
Round five saw Diaz pick up the pace considerably, firing off right hooks and coming back with straight lefts. The desire was there for Farmer to counter but his offense slowed as he began awkwardly blinking his eyes.
The second half of the contest saw Diaz continue his trend of taking the fight to the defending champ. A left hand by the challenger briefly stopped Farmer in his tracks, looking up as if to clear his head and readjust.
Farmer scored with a right hook in the first 30 seconds of round eight, though unable to follow up with anything of substance. Diaz fired back with left hands, and both digging in deep for a fun two-way exchange at center ring.
On the surface, it—along with the journey of making weight—seemed to have taken a toll on Farmer, who was bone dry and breathing heavy. Diaz was the busier fighter throughout rounds nine and ten, laying on Farmer’s chest and taking whatever openings surfaced. Farmer fired back in round 11, rattling off a flurry of punches but with Diaz taking them well and immediately responding with power shots.
After nearly a year’s worth of trash talk, the two boxers found comfort in settling their differences in the ring. Farmer and Diaz embraced at center ring just before the bell to begin the 12th and final round. With the title seemingly within reach, Diaz sought to take the final three minutes, channeling energy through a support system thousands of miles from home. Chants of ‘Jo Jo’ filled the purpose built venue throughout the final round. Diaz responded in kind, doing his best to close the show and then mounting the corner post at fight’s end.
“I respect Tevin Farmer, he gave me this title shot,” Diaz said after the win, running his record to 31-1 (15KOs). “I know he’s gonna want a rematch and I’ll be more than happy to run it back.”
The two haven’t agreed on anything at all for the past several months, but are on the same page on the topic of once again meeting in the ring.
“We definitely gonna (exercise) that immediate rematch clause,” vowed Farmer. “Hopefully we can do it again in April or May. We gotta run it back but he put up a hell of fight.”
The bout appeared in supporting capacity of a DAZN show topped by Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17KOs) in a middleweight title defense versus Ireland’s Luke Keeler (17-2-1, 5KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox