Joseph Diaz is not about to make light of a peer’s mental health struggles.
The former 130-pound titleholder and 2012 Olympian gave a shout of support to Ryan Garcia, the lightweight Instagram star who backed out of a scheduled summer fight against Javier Fortuna, citing his battles with anxiety and depression.
“I have decided to take some time off to focus on becoming a stronger version of myself,” Garcia said in a statement at the time.
Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) has recently hinted that he is ready to box again.
“I wish Ryan Garcia nothing but the best,” Diaz said during an episode of the SI Boxing Podcast. “I know what it is to struggle with mental health. It’s nothing to mess around with. I wish him nothing the best.”
Garcia’s withdrawal, however, paved the way for Diaz to take his place. In what will be his debut at lightweight, Diaz takes on Fortuna on July 9 at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on DAZN.
Diaz (31-1-1, 15 KOs) himself has gone through some mental turmoil, both in and out of the ring. After defeating Tevin Farmer to win the IBF 130-pound title, Diaz lost it on the scales in his first defense against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in February, a fight that ended in a draw. Diaz is also in a protracted lawsuit against his former managers.
Once it became clear that Fortuna (36-2-1, 25 KOs) needed a new opponent, Diaz did not hesitate to throw in his hat.
“This fight came together because I knew that I wanted to get back into the fight,” said Diaz. I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of my last fight so I hit up Golden Boy and I hit up my advisory people, MTK, and let them know that I wanted to get right back into it and that I wanted to fight ASAP, to showcase to everybody my last fight that I wasn’t myself. I started praying to God asking him to give me an opportunity.
"But once I got that opportunity I jumped on it. It clicked in my mind. ’Sh!t, let me face Javier Fortuna at 135.’”