There was something appealing to Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz about facing the division’s perceived boogeyman, even without the stakes being raised.
The fact that an interim title is now at stake for his showdown with Javier Fortuna only sweetens the pot, as a win only expands his future options.
“I think it is going to steal the night,” Diaz said during a virtual press conference to formally announce the July 9 DAZN show on which the bout will appear. “I think it’s a very big fight and it’s a fight that a lot of fans want to see. They know that I’m an action-packed type of fighter.
“I’m moving up a weight class, challenging a very, very tough opponent that a lot of people turned down—Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia didn’t really turn him down but due to his mental (health), he’s not fighting now. Jorge Linares—all these guys who were supposed to fight him haven’t.”
Diaz (31-1-1, 15KOs) accepted the fight after Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) withdrew from the date due to personal issues. The decision meant moving up in weight, an easy one to make for the former IBF junior lightweight titlist who abandoned his title at the scale prior to his last fight. Diaz came in 3 ½ pounds over the limit ahead of his 12-round draw versus mandatory challenger Shavkat Rakhimov this past February 13, with Rakhimov now due to challenge for the vacant title later this summer.
As luck would have it, Diaz now lands in a title opportunity of sorts as well. The upcoming battle with Fortuna (36-2-1, 25KOs)—which takes place at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, near Diaz’s South El Monte, California hometown—comes with the vacant WBC interim lightweight title at stake.
“They hit me up and said the WBC interim title was at stake. I’m just excited that I will have choices,” noted Diaz. “After I knock out Javier Fortuna, I will have options whether to fight Devin Haney for the lightweight championship or drop back down to 130.
““I’m going in there, stepping up a weight class and fighting a very dangerous opponent. I want it to be an all-out war. That’s what I want it to be. I want him to hit me, I want to hit him and we’ll see who breaks first.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox