It has been a whirlwind tour for Javier Fortuna ever since becoming the mandatory challenger to the WBC lightweight title.
The Dominican southpaw has experienced at least four fights fall through during that time, including two for the aforementioned belt and had to wait out an opponent change for his upcoming fight. Fortuna remains the number-one contender to the belt, with the chance for an upgrade as he faces Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz for the WBC interim lightweight title this Friday live on DAZN from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
The winner is due to next face reigning WBC titlist Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs), though Fortuna remains curious if he sees that opportunity even if he prevails on Friday.
“He has already avoided me before,” Fortuna told BoxingScene.com of the long and frustrating wait for his overdue title shot. “Devin Haney is just waiting for the decision on July 9 so that he can move up to 140 pounds once it’s time to fight me.”
Ironically, this weekend’s fight comes about thanks to the willingness of Diaz (31-1-1, 15KOs) to move up to Fortuna’s current weight division. The 2012 U.S. Olympian and former IBF junior lightweight titlist agreed to the fight in place of unbeaten lightweight contender Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOs), who withdrew from the assignment due to personal reasons.
Fortuna (36-2-1, 25KOs) has also seen fights with Jorge Linares, Luke Campbell and Haney all fall through due to a variety of reasons.
Haney at one point vacated his WBC title as he was recovering from shoulder surgery which prevented him from honoring a sanctioning body-imposed deadline to face Fortuna when their fight was ordered in late 2019. Fortuna was then ordered to face England’s Campbell (20-4, 16KOs) for the vacant title, only for their April 2020 bout to get canceled due to the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic—the same set of circumstances that saw the WBC reinstate Haney as champion upon his being medically cleared to return to the ring.
A ruling from the WBC permitted Haney to proceed with a voluntary title defense, facing and soundly outpointing Yuriorkis Gamboa over 12 rounds last November in Hollywood, Florida.
Fortuna was to have faced Linares last August, only for Linares to test positive for COVID to ruin such plans. Fortuna would settle for a stay-busy fight later in the year, coming in the form of a sixth-round knockout of Antonio Lozada last November.
Meanwhile, Haney has since retained his title in a twelve-round unanimous decision victory over Linares this past May at Michelob ULTRA Arena in his Las Vegas hometown. Haney is naturally interested in next facing the elite talent in and around his weight—lineal champion and WBA/IBF/WBO titlist Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs), WBA “super” 130-pound champ and secondary WBA lightweight and junior welterweight titlist Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (25-0, 24KOs) and former three-division titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko (15-2, 11KOs).
A win on Friday by Fortuna could change that conversation.
“I have been his number-one contender for nearly two years,” notes Fortuna. “As soon as I beat JoJo Diaz I will immediately—IMMEDIATELY—have my mandatory status enforced.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox