Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz knew the time would come for his redemption tour.
What he didn’t expect was a best-case scenario of a high-profile opportunity with an interim title at stake for a fight in his hometown.
Mere months after losing his IBF junior lightweight title at the scale, Diaz (31-1-1, 15KOs) is now set to contend for the vacant WBC interim lightweight title. It comes versus Dominican Republic’s Javier Fortuna (36-2-1, 25KOs), with the bout to serve as part of a loaded Golden Boy Promotions event taking place July 9 on DAZN from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
“I’m so eager to get inside the ring again,” Diaz told host Adriana Jimenez during a virtual press conference to formally announce the event. “I have a lot to prove to myself, to my fans and to all the haters out there, talking down on me. They’re talking down on my talent and what I did [before] my last fight. I’m very, very focused, very, very determined.
“Javier Fortuna is in for a rude awakening. I don’t think he should have accepted this fight. I’m glad he did. This is a fight that’s going to catapult my career and put me back on top where I should be.”
Diaz hoped to make the first defense of his junior lightweight title in his most recent bout. Instead, the 2012 U.S. Olympian from South El Monte, California became a former champ a day before his February 13 showdown with mandatory challenger Shavkat Rakhimov, against whom he fought to a 12-round draw in their entertaining thriller. Having missed weight by 3 ½ pounds, Diaz knew he’d have to come correct for his next fight. He was prepared to put in the work to once again compete at junior lightweight, where he is eager to regain the title.
Instead came the opportunity to help save the July 9 show when original headliner Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) withdrew from his planned bout with Fortuna to instead focus on his mental health. Diaz accepted without any questions asked, immediately beginning to focus on how a win not only shapes his future but also earns forgiveness among those who felt betrayed by his pre-fight scale fail ahead of his previous ring appearance.
“Things didn’t go as planned but everything happens for a reason,” theorizes Diaz. “I got this opportunity with Javier Fortuna. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip away. I’m training my ass off and making sure that my hand is raised on July 9.
“At 135, Javier Fortuna is going to be feeling my strength.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox