The only thing Sycuan Ringside Promotions’ International Boxing Federation (IBF) interim lightweight champion Julio Diaz is willing to lose when he opposes defending IBF lightweight champion Jesus Chavez on Saturday, Feb. 3, is that nagging “interim” label.
“I’m in great shape, at the right weight and really excited,” Diaz said. “I’m ready to go.’’
Diaz (33-3, 24 KOs), of Indio, Calif., takes on Chavez (42-3, 29 KOs), of Austin, Texas, in the opening half of a world championship doubleheader on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.
If triumphant, Diaz becomes a two-time IBF lightweight title-holder and Sycuan Ringside Promotions’ fourth current world champion.
“This will be a great fight,’’ said Diaz, who captured the IBF interim title in his most recent start with a lopsided 12-round decision over Ricky Quiles on May 18, 2006, in Hollywood, Fla. “Chavez is a great fighter, someone I respect very much. But he’s not at my level.
“I’m a legit lightweight. He’s a great junior lightweight moving up. I expect a great fight but I will dominate because he’s slower and smaller than me. Chavez’s style is perfect for me.’’
Diaz, who hails from a fighting family, turned pro at 19. The younger brother of two-time world-title challenger Antonio Diaz captured the IBF belt the first time with a 12-round majority decision over Javier Jauregui on May 13, 2005, in San Diego. Most felt he won convincingly.
“I knew I had the fight,’’ said the switch-hitting Diaz after he outpointed the defending titlist by the scores of 118-110 twice and 114-114. “It was the happiest day of my life.’’
Diaz voluntarily relinquished the belt to take on World Boxing Council (WBC) 135-pound champ Jose Luis Castillo on March 5, 2005, in Las Vegas on SHOWTIME.
Diaz lost by 10th-round TKO, but said, “I learned so much, I almost felt like I came out of that fight a winner. Castillo had so much experience. I was never hurt, on the ropes or in trouble. I was in the fight and I took his power punches. He knocks everybody out, but not me.
“I really feel like I grew up that night.’’
Since the setback, Diaz has gone 3-0. He won both his assignments after Castillo by spectacular one-punch, first-round knockout. Then, last time out, he outclassed Quiles.
“Confidence-wise, I feel so good right now,’’ Diaz said. “This is such a big fight for me. It’s time for me to do really well in a big fight.’’
Diaz knows how to bounce back from adversity. The “2000 Prospect of the Year’’ in USA Today was once regarded as one of boxing’s top young contenders. Then, in October 2001, he dropped a disputed 12-round split decision to popular veteran Angel Manfredy.
“That was the first big fight I had and I truly believe I won it,’’ Diaz said. “Castillo was the second big fight. This one with Chavez is the third.’’
The five-foot-nine-inch Diaz will have a four-inch height advantage over the dangerous, comebacking Chavez.
“I’ve always been tall for my weight class,’’ said Diaz, who is at his best when he can utilize his speed, mobility and power. “I’ve fought plenty of smaller fighters who like to come in and throw a lot of punches. I know how to handle these guys.
“But on Feb. 3, I won’t be there to dance around. I’ll be there to win.”