Joseph Diaz, motivated by son’s birth, is ready to take career to a new level
Joseph Diaz might be a millennial by age, but he is an old school fighter by heart.
Motivated by his son’s birth nearly three months ago, Diaz is riding into the new year with high expectations.
“I’m very excited to be fighting again,” he stated. “It’s time to show that Joseph Diaz is a household name.”
Diaz will make the first defense of his IBF junior lightweight title against undefeated Tajik Shavkatdzhon “Shere Khan” Rakhimov (15-0, 12 knockouts) duel between two southpaws with highly decorated amateur pedigrees.
The 12-round contest will headline a DAZN-streamed card at The Avalon in Hollywood, California.
On paper, it appears to be a steep challenge for a first title defense, especially in this era of boxing. Add in a global pandemic that has caused many fighters to endure long layoffs, Diaz has made it clear that he yearns the more formidable challenges.
“If my team told me that I could fight next week, I would want to fight,” he told The Ring. “Shit, if I can fight three, four, or even five times a year, let’s make it happen.”
But Diaz isn’t taking Rakhimov lightly.
“Rakhimov is a good fighter,” he admitted. “He applies a lot of pressure, and he keeps on coming forward.
“I have to take it fight by fight. I see some things I can capitalize on, but I’m saving that for February 13, and I’ll give the fans a spectacular performance.”
Stepping up to face the best opponent possible is nothing new for Diaz. In May of 2018, he suffered his first loss in his first title shot, dropping a competitive unanimous decision at the hands of titleholder Gary Russell Jr.
“A rematch with Russell is always on my mind,” Diaz said. “Gary did a hell of a job, but I want to redeem myself.”
“I know what I want in my career, and that’s to fight the best, not to fight guys two weight classes lower than me just to make money.”
When asked what he could have done differently, Diaz spoke straight from the shoulder.
“I feel like I could have won if I took some more risks in there, but it all comes with experience, and I learned a lot from that fight.”
After defeating Rakhimov, Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs), 28, of Downey, California, The Ring’s No. 3-rated junior lightweight, will aim for the other champions in his weight class for a unification fight.
Gervonta “Tank” Davis is the WBA’s top titleholder, followed by WBO champion Jamel Herring, and WBC beltholder Miguel Berchelt.
“All of them are beatable,” Diaz said.
However, Diaz was more critical of Berchelt.
“I’d like to see Berchelt fight a tougher guy,” he added. “He’s one hell of a fighter, but I feel like he hasn’t fought the best competition.
“Francisco Vargas had already been beat up so many times and Miguel Roman is an old fighter as well. I’d love to see how he performs against Oscar Valdez.”
Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs) will defend his WBC title for the seventh time on February 20 against Valdez at The MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
In his lone defeat, Berchelt suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of Luis Florez in a scheduled 10-round bout in March 2014 in Mexico.
“Top Rank is very good at matchmaking and showcasing their fighters,” Diaz said. “They put their guys in there with opponents they know they can handle.”
As a Golden Boy fighter, Diaz claims that he carries a significant advantage over his competition, given that he is continuously tested and doesn’t have to worry when it’s time to face a tough fighter.
“That’s the thing about me. I have learned a lot inside the ring,” Diaz said. “I have fought five current world champions in my career.
“My experience in that ring goes very unnoticed, and I don’t get enough respect for my work. I will make a statement on February 13.