Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz Jr. didn’t miss a beat in training camp, even with the late switch in opponents and the stakes raised for his final fight of the year.
The former IBF junior lightweight titlist and current WBC interim lightweight beltholder remains hard at work for a shot at WBC lightweight champ Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs). The opportunity comes in lieu of an interim title fight with rising star Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOs), who withdrew from their November 27 DAZN headliner due to a wrist injury which required immediate surgery.
Fortunately for Diaz, an opponent was still being sought to face Haney one week later on DAZN. Extended talks between the two ultimately produced a deal, though with Diaz never stopped preparing for a switch he envisioned taking place.
“Not that big of an adjustment. They have that same length and that same tallness,” Diaz insisted while at ringside for the November 13 DAZN telecast topped by Jaime Munguia’s thrilling decision win over Gabriel Rosado. “We kind of figured that Ryan Garcia was going to pull out and were already in talks for Devin Haney. It was either between Ryan Garcia or Devin Haney. We were preparing for both of them.”
Diaz’s lightweight arrival also came about thanks to Garcia. The opportunity arose to move up in weight when Javier Fortuna was left without an opponent for a July 9 date when Garcia withdrew from the event in order to focus on his mental health. Diaz willingly stepped in to save the show, going on to beat Fortuna by unanimous decision to win the WBC interim lightweight title.
The same belt was to be at stake for a fight with Garcia, with the winner to be ordered to next face Haney who was eyeing a voluntary title defense but unable to land a challenger. Diaz suddenly became available once Garcia removed himself from the mix, going back and forth with finer points in the proposed contract before agreeing to terms for what he views as the biggest fight of his career.
“I already had, I would say an 11, 10 week training camp even before the fight was announced,” insists Diaz, who lost his IBF junior lightweight at the scale ahead of his eventual 12-round draw with Shavkat Rakhimov in February. “I’ve been busting my ass for Ryan Garcia or Devin Haney.
“Now that I got the Devin Haney fight, it’s the fight I wanted. I’m glad I got it because now I can be a three-time world champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox