Joseph Diaz Jr. outpoints Javier Fortuna in successful lightweight debut
LOS ANGELES – Joseph Diaz Jr. made his lightweight debut a successful one by outpointing avoided contender Javier Fortuna over 12 competitive rounds in the co-featured bout to the Gilberto Ramirez-Sullivan Barrera card at Banc of California Stadium on Friday.
Diaz (32-1-1, 15 KOs) overcame a cut over his left eye (suffered in Round 3), a point deduction (for rabbit punches) in Round 4, and Fortuna’s unorthodox style to win a unanimous decision by scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112. Most observers thought the 115-112 tally was more indicative of the tit-for-tat action the savvy southpaws put forth for 12 rounds.
Fortuna (36-3-1, 25 KOs), a 32-year-old veteran from the Dominican Republic, was the more relaxed and mobile boxer. The Ring’s No. 6-rated lightweight also had the heavier hands and appeared to be the busier fighter over the second half of the bout. However, Diaz, The Ring’s No. 4-rated junior lightweight, exhibited quicker hands and landed crisper punches. The former IBF 130-pound titleholder (who lost his belt on the scales prior to a majority draw against Shavkatdzhon Rakimov in his last bout in February) was also the aggressor throughout most of the bout, stalking Fortuna behind sharp body shots and counter hooks. Diaz also appeared to be the physically stronger of the two, especially when they grappled in clinches.
The victory places Diaz, a 28-year-old member of the U.S. 2012 Olympic squad from South El Monte, California, in the red hot 135-pound division, which is home to Ring/unified champ Teofimo Lopez, pound-for-pound rated Vasiliy Lomachenko, WBC titleholder Devin Haney and rising stars Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia.
Fortuna had a hard time getting any of his fellow lightweight contenders to face him, but Diaz did when the Dominican’s original opponent, Ryan Garcia, pulled out of the fight in order to deal with mental health issues.
Diaz was complimentary of Fortuna after the fight.
“He was a warrior,” Diaz said during his post-fight interview. “I thought I would easily land body shots, but he’s a slick defensive fighter. He’s very talented. I wish him the best and I hope he continues.”
Diaz was asked if he wanted to continue at lightweight or drop back down to junior lightweight. He made it clear that he believes the action is at lightweight.
“I can fight all the top guys at 135 pounds,” he said. “I want Ryan Garcia or Devin Haney. Let’s make this s__t happen.”
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