Haney vs Diaz Jr: Lightweight lightning round, DAZN Saturday
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, December 3, 2021 – Will the Year of the Upset continue on Saturday night in Las Vegas? After the stunning defeat of unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. by upstart George Kambosos Jr., the battle for the only belt not in Kambosos Jr.’s hands takes on more importance.
Both WBC World Lightweight Champion Devin Haney of Las Vegas (26-0, 15 KOs) and former titleholder Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, California (31-1-1, 15 KOs) sense a door opening to unification and want to earn their shot against Kambosos Jr. The main event is supported by solid undercard fights championship bouts starting live on DAZN at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.
Clear time in your holiday schedule for this one. Haney, age 23, and Diaz Jr., age 29, both want to capitalize on the upset last Saturday. They perceive Kambosos Jr. as an easier mark than if Lopez Jr. had won, and they mean to win to become the WBC’s mandatory challenger.
Haney, who is the favorite going in by oddsmakers, says he doesn’t feel any pressure and believes he’s well-prepared for Diaz Jr. “We know what he’s going to do, what he’s going to throw, we studied him so well we know the mistakes he’s going to make and the habits he has. We’re going to go in there and do what we do best.”
Diaz Jr. said the fight is the moment he’s prayed for his entire life. “For God to be blessing me with this opportunity, I’m ready. I haven’t been cutting any corners, I’m just built the way I’m built, and I’m going to go out there and execute what I’ve got to do.”
Diaz Jr.: ‘Taking his will and soul’
Diaz Jr. fights for the second time in the lightweight division. In July, he got off to a great start, stepping in on short notice for his Golden Boy Boxing stablemate Ryan Garcia against Javier Fortuna. Diaz Jr. had to dig down against Fortuna, who gave him all he could handle. He came close to a ninth-round knockdown and won by solid scores. Diaz Jr. knows he’s got a reputation as a brawler but denies it’s his only road to victory.
“I’m going to go in there and do what I have to do to be victorious. I’m going to go out there and hurt him to the body, hurt him on top, but also show my boxing skills as well. I’m a 2012 Olympian. I’ve fought in there with the best fighters in my divisions in the past, Tevin Farmer, Gary Russell Jr, all these guys.
“My main focus in Devin Haney and beating the shit out of him, taking his will and soul come Saturday night.”
Haney: ‘I’ll beat the will out of him’
Haney’s thinking about his opponent is similar. “This is what I feel with JoJo Diaz. He says he’s going to go in there and come right at me. We saw how that worked with George Kambosos with Teofimo Lopez. He had no respect and got caught. He can go in there and get caught with a big shot early, or I’ll beat the will out of him. You’ll see.
“I’ll be one step closer to having all the belts in the lightweight division, it all starts on December 4, and I can’t wait,” said Haney.
Haney is coming off a win in May against his toughest opponent, veteran Jorge Linares. Haney got rattled by multiple power punches but hung in to win a less than impressive decision.
Haney vs Diaz Jr.: ‘Good versus elite’
Golden Boy Boxing matchmaker Roberto Diaz has ultimate confidence in Diaz Jr. “Bring out your pens and get them ready, don’t call it an upset because he’s been elite from day one, from the amateurs. You don’t become an Olympian from just being average.
“Saturday night in front of JoJo, there’s a very talented young man, a very good world champion, but it’s good versus elite. The beauty of boxing is nothing is ever written. Last week you saw it. This weekend you’ll see it. JoJo will take that title back to California.”
Devin Haney’s father and trainer Bill dismissed Diaz. “He [Robert] said the same thing about Jorge Linares, that Jorge was going to come and that he has everything to stop Devin. He didn’t. We look forward to Devin impressively putting on an ass-whipping on JoJo, and then you give us the title of the Golden Boy killer.”
Prediction: Don’t call a Diaz Jr. win an upset
George Kambosos Jr. will be sitting ringside Saturday, making it impossible for either Haney or Diaz Jr. to forget what the stakes of their fight are all about.
Devin Haney’s talents have been acknowledged ever since his pro debut in the US after several early fights in Mexico. With the guidance of Floyd Mayweather and Leonard Ellerbe, along with father Bill Sr., Haney has benefitted from tremendous support in clearing his path to a title. But as a result, his resume is thinner than Diaz Jr. Haney has been allowed to escape serious pressure fighters and power punches.
Joseph Diaz Jr. came up in the hardscrabble gyms of Southern California, and his record reflects tougher opponents, with losses balanced by more significant victories, like Farmer and Fortuna.
But Diaz Jr.’s biggest battle has been the one against his own demons. He’s winning the championship rounds as he acknowledges dealing with his mental health and struggles on the scale. In a recent interview, we asked Diaz Jr. about disclosing his mental health issues and whether he’s glad he did. “God has blessed me to change a lot of lives. People come up to me and give me a hug and thank me for what I have done. It’s very meaningful for me.”
Diaz Jr.’s last win was his first as a father to son Zenith. Life outside the ring can either distract a fighter – as it has with Teofimo Lopez Jr. – or help them focus. Diaz Jr. is the latter. Haney hasn’t yet walked through the personal or professional fire like Diaz Jr.
“At the end of the day, boxing is all about keeping your composure. It’s motivated me the most that Haney has been talking all this shit,” said Diaz Jr. “At 135 pounds, I’m someone to be reckoned with. I’m very, very dangerous at this weight. I’m prepared for this moment in my life. I’m not going to take it for granted. Haney has great boxing skills, but so do I.”
We’re predicting a unanimous decision win for Diaz Jr., who won’t let his opportunity get past him Saturday.
Undercard fights to watch: McCaskill vs Wyatt, Love vs Diaz, Hrgovic vs Ahmatovic
Unified and undisputed welterweight world champion Jessica McCaskill of Chicago (10-2, 3 KOs) faces replacement opponent Kandi Wyatt of Calgary (10-3, 3 KOs). Wyatt steps in for Victoria Bustos of Argentina, who was prevented from traveling due to COVID-19 protocols. It’s still an opportunity for McCaskill to get some rounds in, stay sharp, and stay in front of the fans.
Fast-rising favorite Montana Love of Cleveland (16-0-1) faces Carlos Diaz of Guadalajara (29-1, 14 KOs) in a ten-round super lightweight bout. After making a splash beating Ivan Baranchyk on the Logan Paul vs Tyron Woodley card, Love has finally gotten the opportunity he always wanted. “This is really crazy. I made it to the MGM in Las Vegas. Just some years back I was sitting behind them walls walking laps around that track asking myself what I was gone do,” said Love.
Love’s French bulldog Poppy got as much attention as his owner, even making an appearance at Friday’s weigh-in. But he wasn’t the reason Love hit the scale at 143 pounds. Love and Diaz agreed to a contracted 144-pound limit.
Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic of Croatia (13-0, 11 KOs) also faces a late replacement opponent in Emir Ahmatovic, a Serbian native out of Germany (10-0, 7 KOs) who is taking a significant step up in his first fight out of the US.
“I need to stay focused. I cannot underestimate anyone. Thanks to Emir for accepting the challenge. I’m looking forward to Saturday night,” said Hrgovic, who then pressed promoter Eddie Hearn. “I don’t know what’s going on. You’re the biggest promotor in the world, and I hope you’ll find someone to fight me soon. I’m looking forward to big fights.” We say bring on countryman Alen Babic for an epic Croatian trash-talking showdown.
Austin “Ammo” Williams of Dallas (8-0, 6 KOs) will take on solid opponent Quatavious Cash of Atlanta (14-2, 8 KOs).
Super middleweight Alexis Espino of Las Vegas (9-0. 6 KOs) faces Rodolfo Gomez Jr. (14-5-1, 10 KOs) of Laredo, Texas, in front of his hometown fans.
Super featherweight Marc Castro of Fresno (4-0, 4 KOs) has gotten lots of buzz in his young career fighting on major event undercards. He is scheduled for six rounds against Ronaldo Solis of Cancun, Mexico (4-2-1, 3 KOs), but he’s never gone past four so far.
Middleweight Amari Jones of Las Vegas (4-0, 4 KOs) bypassed the 2020 Olympics to turn pro and continues his career against Timothy Lee of Las Vegas (5-1, 4 KOs).
Flyweights Richard Rafael Sandoval of Rialto, California (19-1, 14 KOs) and Carlos Buitrago of Managua, Nicaragua (32-6, 18 KOs) open the card.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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