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The Fight Corner: There’s something different about Joseph Diaz Jr.

The Fight Corner: There’s something different about Joseph Diaz Jr.
Joseph Diaz Jr. (Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. This newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox every week if you sign up here. Let’s get right to the news.

There’s something different about Joseph Diaz Jr., and it goes beyond the “snow-cone hair” he’s wearing.

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The recent South El Monte featherweight title challenger has moved up to super-featherweight and he’s buffed up his swagger, too.

After getting into a light shoving match onstage with his Saturday opponent, Nicaragua’s Freddy Fonseca, on the Canelo Alvarez-Daniel Jacobs undercard, the former U.S. Olympian quickly found himself engaged in a face-to-face confrontation with International Boxing Federation super-featherweight champion Tevin Farmer.

Philadelphia’s Farmer approached Diaz (28-1, 14 knockouts) after he spoke to the Los Angeles Times and said, “What’s up? We’re going to get at it … whenever you’re ready.”

“I’m ready whenever,” Diaz answered.

“You’re too small. I ain’t going to do you too dirty now. You’ve got a fight coming up,” said Farmer (29-4-1, six KOs).

That’s when Diaz manager Ralph Heredia intervened, and made it territorial, invoking his Southland roots.

“You know where you’re at? You ain’t in Philly,” Heredia said.

“I don’t care where we’re at,” Farmer replied, moving in closer to Diaz.

“I’ll fight you next. Sign the contract,” Diaz said, spotting Farmer co-promoter Eddie Hearn behind Farmer. “Eddie Hearn, sign it.”

When Heredia reached to move Farmer back from Diaz and security guards neared, the champion roared, “Don’t touch me!”

The episode is also known as fight-building.

“He gets it. He’s an outstanding self-promoter,” said Farmer’s other promoter, Lou DiBella.

Farmer has to take an IBF mandatory during the summer. Diaz said he’s also interested in meeting the winner of the June 21 secondary World Boxing Assn. title fight rematch in Indio between Andrew Cancio and Alberto Machado, or the winner of the May 11 World Boxing Council super-featherweight title fight in Tucson, Ariz., between champion Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas.

“I know what I’m capable of doing and I know who I want to be, to be a champion unifying titles by 2020 … ,” Diaz said.

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Diaz knows he needs to first beat Fonseca, the brother of a former 130-pound title challenger.

“He’s excited to be on such a big stage, but we’re not in Nicaragua … you can’t be disrespectful like that,” Diaz said of that scuffle. “I’m a nice, humble person, but I don’t tolerate any of that, and once somebody puts their hands on me or makes a threat on me, I’m going to retaliate. I’m a fighter by nature. I’ll never let anyone disrespect me. I’ve got to show him I won’t back down. I’m a tough guy, too. I’m not going to let him have any leverage on me.”

Diaz said he feels more comfortable at 130 pounds after losing a featherweight title shot at WBC champion Gary Russell Jr. one year ago this month.

“[Featherweight] was depleting my body, I was losing muscles … my health is more important and my body’s becoming bigger,” Diaz said. “I’m becoming more of a man, maturing.

“Now, I feel a lot more comfortable and showed more of my skills – lateral skills, ring generalship, head movement – in my last fight. My body has adapted to the change. So you’ll see a real strong Joseph Diaz. I’ve dealt with a lot of experience now, so whatever opportunity is presented to me, I’m going to be more than ready. I’ve just got to be consistent and persistent.”

GET OUT TO VEGAS!

If you picked up Friday’s Los Angeles Times and enjoyed our special section on the Alvarez-Jacobs fight and are in or heading to Las Vegas this weekend, please try to attend our special event tonight from 5-6:30 p.m. at Losers Lounge inside MGM Grand.

Beto Duran will be leading our “Arrive Early, Leave Late” podcast and we’ve invited several boxers of prominence to attend and chat about their future plans and Saturday’s fight while we’ll offer an outstanding promotion for those interested in digital subscriptions to The Times, which will include access to “The Fight Corner,” and all of our great news and sports coverage.

We appreciate all the support you’ve given our fight coverage over the ears, and it’d be great to have some personal interaction with you, with Sports Editor Angel Rodriguez and Columnists Dylan Hernandez and Arash Markazi also attending the event.

Hope to see you there!

The “other” fight

Talk about an unfortunate fight date … due to his religious obligations and television scheduling, unbeaten IBF light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) of Russia meets Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-1, 17 KOs) on ESPN Saturday night at 7 p.m. Pacific from Stockton, Calif. – the same time as the Alvarez-Jacobs card.

“I think my guy can win. He’s a good fighter and can punch like a mule,” Kalajdzic promoter DiBella said of a fighter whose only loss was a split-decision defeat in April 2016 to current WBA champion Marcus Browne. “It’s too bad the whole world will likely be watching Canelo … .”

The card also includes an IBF super-flyweight title defense by Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines versus top-ranked contender Ryuichi Funai. Also Stockton prospect Gabriel Flores Jr., 19, is on the card from the Stockton Arena.

“It’s going to be a fun fight. [Beterbiev] comes forward. I come forward,” Kalajdzic said.

Awful choice of words

Veteran English promoter Barry Hearn, the father of Daniel Jacobs’ promoter Eddie Hearn, was immediately and rightfully criticized for referring to “slave contracts” and “slave traders” while filling in for his son while hosting a news conference in the U.K. for black heavyweight Dillian Whyte.

In praising Jamaican-born Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs) for taking a July 20 fight at O2 Arena versus unbeaten Oscar Rivas on a fight-by-fight deal with the Hearns’ Matchroom Boxing, Barry Hearn said, “He’s not tied on the slave contracts of yesteryear. When I was running boxing … it was much easier.

“We were slave traders. We had these guys and they were working for us and we was the boss. … Now, I have to say, ‘Mr. Dillian Whyte,’ and I have to be respectful.”

Whyte laughed uncomfortably, and the elder Hearn was promptly skewered for his statement.

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“I’m outraged, this is not funny,” unified women’s middleweight champion Claressa Shields wrote on Twitter.

Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis of England Tweeted, “Just wrong on so many levels … not quite sure what to say about this.”

Barry Hearn retweeted a comment in which someone wrote, “Barry didn’t mean anything bad by saying slave contracts mans just being honest with how times have changed in boxing.”

Times have changed in life, too, and on a weekend we have so many of all cultures gathering to watch boxing

Until next time

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