By Cliff Rold
In the biggest test of his career so far, 24-year old Junior Welterweight Victor Cayo (23-0, 15 KO) of the Dominican Republic boxed with confidence and style, outpointing 29-year old two-time Lightweight titlist Julio Diaz (36-6, 26 KO) of Coachella, California, over ten rounds at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida on Friday night.
Each came in at 139 ¾, just shy of the division limit of 140 lbs. The referee was Samuel Burgos.
Both men were cautious to open, Cayo potshotting with his hands dangerously near his waist as Diaz planted his feet and shot hard jabs. A lead right hand brushed the chin of a leaning Cayo at the halfway mark and the youngster responded with a slapping lead left hook and straight right hand over the following minute. Diaz closed the frame with a hard left hook to the stomach, a reply to another slashing lead left from Cayo as each man sought to stake their terms.
In the second, the pace continued much the same with Diaz looking to land harder single shots while Cayo opted for volume and surprise. In the closing seconds, Cayo’s strategy paid off with a right hand which sent Diaz backwards, his legs wobbling. Boxing with confidence, Cayo put on a show in the third. Flashy from the start, he openly was mocking Diaz with feints and his chin stuck out, landing at will from both the orthodox and southpaw stances. Diaz attempted to match his foe’s switch to southpaw and ate a flush lead right uppercut for his trouble.
Wisely employing a tight right glove to his chin in defense, Diaz muffled Cayo’s left hook and landed some hard body blows after eating an early right to start the fourth. While Cayo continued to land quick rights and lefts, his demeanor noticeably sharpened as Diaz got closer on the inside. A leaping left hook brought calls from the crowd while a right hand from the former titlist followed by a shove into the ropes made clear a willingness to make things rough.
The fifth round provided bright spots for both competitors and closed with a flourish. With both men bent forward, shoulder to shoulder, the leather steadily multiplied with neither man giving quarter. Diaz was still being outworked but landing enough to keep Cayo honest and continued to do so in the sixth. Using smart clinches and minimal movement, Diaz kept Cayo in range and chopped with his right, letting the rounds slip away but still giving himself a chance to win.
Cayo met Diaz again at close quarters to start the seventh, clipping the veteran with a right uppercut before stepping back to the outside. When he stepped in, Diaz continued to make him pay to the body but wasn’t slowing Cayo who matched each burst from Diaz with one of his own, finishing combinations with sharp, cutting rights. It would be a left in the eighth which again had Diaz in trouble, his knees knocking from the force of the blow seconds before the bell.
The Dominican didn’t press the advantage at the start of the ninth, electing to continue boxing rather than rushing into harm’s way. Allowed to get his legs back beneath him, Diaz was firmly back in the action heading into the final minute as both men exchanged heavy shots inside. As had been the case in the fifth, the action built with both fighters scoring hard lefts and Cayo adding more rights over the top. With three minutes to go, Diaz wasn’t going anywhere but appeared to need a knockout finish to win.
Diaz began aggressively, firing his right and raking to the body through the first minute. Both men flurrying in exchange, Cayo’s shots sailed wide while Diaz concentrated with shorter contact blows. Cayo refused to flag and in the final thirty seconds absorbed the best Diaz had to offer while nailing him with rights and lefts fired from the hip, a final statement in a career making win.
The scores were academic for Cayo at 97-93, 96-94 and 98-92. Cayo entered the bout as the WBA’s number three rated contender but had little of substance on his record to merit the ranking before Friday night. He has some merit now.
Diaz drops his second straight following a knockout loss to Rolando Reyes in April. Still not quite 30, and tempting a new weight class, Diaz will have heavy questions to weigh about the future of his career but he performed admirably on Friday and could still make noise at 140.
In the televised opener, 29-year old Heavyweight Derric Rossy (22-2, 12 KO), 240 ½, of Medford, New York, picked up his fourth straight win by steadily outworking 34-year old Carl Drummond (26-2, 20 KO), 237, for a ten-round decision at unanimous scores of 99-91. Fighting at an up tempo behind a consistent jab, Rossy kept the fight firmly in controlled through the first seven rounds. A wicked body shot from Drummond created a glimmer of hope but a low blow in the ninth gave Rossy extra time to gear up for the stretch run. A slamming uppercut seized the bout back into Rossy’s favor and he kept it there. The referee was Frank Santore.
Rossy’s only losses have come to top contenders Eddie Chambers and Alexander Dimitrenko and he inches towards contention of his own. Drummond drops his second straight on the heels of a failed WBA title shot versus Ruslan Chagaev in February of this year.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2, promoted by Seminole Warriors Boxing.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]