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Joseph Diaz and Jayson Velez will open Ward-Barrera telecast

Joseph Diaz Jr. (R) lands a bodyshot on Giovani Delgado on May 9 in Houston. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images-Golden Boy Promotions

Joseph Diaz Jr. (R) lands a bodyshot on Giovani Delgado. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Getty Images-Golden Boy Promotions

U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. (19-0, 11 knockouts) will face Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout on March 26 to open the HBO World Championship Boxing telecast (9:45 p.m. ET) featuring Andre Ward and Sullivan Barrera, Golden Boy Promotions announced on Wednesday.

Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya predicted the winner of Diaz-Velez will soon have a shot at a belt in a division that boasts such titleholders as Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO), Gary Russell Jr. (WBC), Leo Santa Cruz (WBA) and Lee Selby (IBF).

“These are two exciting, up-and-coming fighters, with the winner likely soon looking at a world championship battle,” De La Hoya said in a press release. “With so much at stake, fans can bank on an action-packed fight with both guys going all out for the knockout.”

Diaz, a 23-year-old southpaw who represented the U.S. in the 2012 Games in London, kept a brisk pace last year, fighting five times and recording victories over Rene Alvarado, Ruben Tamayo and Giovanni Delgado, among others. Last December, Diaz stopped Hugo Partida in two rounds to pick up the NABF featherweight title.

“I am excited and very grateful about making my debut on HBO,” Diaz said in the release. “I know Jayson Velez is a very tough contender, but I promise not to let my team and my fans down.”

Velez is coming off a decision loss to Ronny Rios last November on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez’s win against Miguel Cotto. He subsequently revamped his corner and feels he’s ready to put the only loss of his career behind him. Velez has been on HBO before, when he fought to a draw in 2014 against Evgeny Gradovich, who held the IBF featherweight title at the time.

“I am ready and focused for this fight,” Velez said in the release. “After my loss against Ronny Rios, I had to change a lot of things in my training including my corner. I understood that I had to work harder to prove that I still have what it takes to be on the top of the featherweight division. I am very excited to have that opportunity on HBO and against a fighter like Joseph Diaz Jr. I want to challenge myself and fight the best. I know that defeating Diaz Jr. will prove that I am back.”




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