LAS VEGAS – Montana Love put an exclamation point on a year to remember.
The unbeaten Cleveland native enjoyed a successful first fight under the Matchroom Boxing banner, stopping Guadalajara’s Carlos Diaz inside of three rounds Saturday evening at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Love scored three knockdowns in round two and had Diaz pinned in a corner, leaving referee Raul Caiz Jr. to stop the contest at 0:22 of round three.
“I was kind of surprised that they didn’t stop it after he went down three times (in round two),” Love said of his latest win. “But we went in there and got him out of there.”
Love didn’t waste any time in capitalizing on the momentum of his career-best win to date, a one-sided seventh-round stoppage of former junior welterweight titlist Ivan Baranchyk this past August 29 in his Cleveland hometown. The breakout performance came on the Showtime Pay-Per-View undercard of content creator Jake Paul’s split decision win over former UFC welterweight titlist Tyron Woodley, with Love enjoying a massive profile boost in the process.
The newfound fame was wisely parlayed into a lucrative multi-fight deal with Matchroom, beginning with Love making his Las Vegas debut. The 26-year-old southpaw controlled the opening round on the strength of his crisp jab and straight left hands. Diaz had his say—and the crowd support, as every punch he landed drew a rise out of his surprisingly passionate fan base on hand.
Love took the wind out of those sails in a showcase second round.
“He was falling in. We knew the type of fighter that he was,” noted Love to DAZN’s Chris Mannix. “It was just about the timing. Once that left was there, it was over. We saw he started breaking down. My coach just said to keep boxing, stay focused, stay patient and don’t rush it. That’s why you saw me stay patient, taking my time and trying to get the victory. I looked at Eddie (Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing), he said the same thing, stay relaxed.”
Diaz hit the deck three times in round two, simply unable to contend with the speed and power of his unbeaten foe. A straight left hand and right hook sent Diaz to the canvas early in round two, slow to get up and seemingly on the verge of an early stoppage loss. He beat the count, only for Love to connect with a four-punch salvo for the bout’s second knockdown. An ensuing sequence along the ropes left Diaz on the deck late in the round, though managing to survive the final 0:40 and make it to the bell.
Diaz (29-2, 14KOs) was on borrowed time by that point. Love closed the show in round three, landing a series of unanswered punches as Diaz was trapped in a neutral corner in producing the stoppage.
Compubox credited Love with landing 44-of-113 total punches (39%), including 40-of-65 power punches for an astounding 65% clip. Diaz landed just 18-of-97 total punches (19%), including 18-of-66 power punches (27%) in suffering his second career defeat. He was also stopped by top junior welterweight contender Jose Zepeda inside of five rounds in June 2018.
Love moves to 17-0-1 (9KOs) with the win, his fourth of a sensational 2021 campaign.
The insistence is that it’s merely a prelude of things to come.
“2022 is going to be a very big year,” vows Love. This was just a wake-up, we woke the world up this year. Next year, me and Eddie are taking over the 140-pound division.”
Of course, the only question is whether he can make 140 pounds. Love had to revise the fight contract to a 144-pound limit as he miscalculated his weight cut, though insists that it won’t be an issue as he prepares for a title run.
“Absolutely,” promised Love. “It’s just a little hiccup, a learning lesson. We locked in.”
Love-Diaz served as the chief support on Saturday’s DAZN telecast. Headlining the show, WBC lightweight champ Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs) faces WBC interim beltholder Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz (32-1-1, 15KOs) in a title consolidation clash.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox