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  • By Miguel Maravilla Photos by Lina Baker - Instant

Joseph Diaz Jr. Ready for Next Step

South El Monte's 2012 U.S. Olympian and current NABF featherweight champion Joseph “Jo Jo Diaz (19-0, 11 KOs) will take the next step in his career when he takes on Puerto Rican featherweight Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 KO’s) later this month Saturday March 26 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California live on HBO. We caught up with a very excited Diaz as he talked about his next fight and opportunity to fight on HBO.

“This next fight is my biggest fight to date. I am fighting Jayson Velez. I know he is bringing it all and I know I am going to be at 110 percent,” Joseph Diaz told Southern California

Diaz has been going at full force training for this fight in his hometown of South El Monte, California with his trainer Ben Lira and father Joseph Diaz.

“I have been training really hard three times, a day. I have been very, focused and very determined,” Diaz said.

Coming off a second round TKO over Hugo Partida to close the 2015 year, Diaz was active last year going 5-0, 2 KO’s. For his opponent Jayson Velez, he is coming off a decision loss to Ronny Rios last November on the Canelo Cotto pay per view card. Velez also came up short in his first shot at a world title in 2014, getting a draw against former IBF featherweight champion Evegeny Gradovich.

“He is a former world title contender, a very great fighter with a lot of experience and he is still young and hungry. He is a very tall rangy fighter and has been there before,” Diaz said about his opponent Velez. “In this fight there is a lot a stake for both of us,” Diaz added.

The 23 year old Diaz will be making his HBO Boxing debut as last year he got his foot in the door fighting on an HBO Latino card, winning a unanimous decision over Rene Alvarado in a tough fight last summer at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

“I am honored to be fighting on HBO. This is my first time on HBO and my opportunity to shine and make a statement. I want to thank my managers Ralph and Moses Heredia for giving me this opportunity as well as Golden Boy Promotions,” Diaz said. “I plan on making a statement on HBO and building my fan base. All the people watching and there at the Oracle Arena, I want to attract all the fans,” Diaz added.

“Jo Jo” Diaz also talked on receiving the news on getting his opportunity to showcase his skills on HBO.

“I received the news one day while I was at home. My manager called me and told me to go to the office because he had some good news. Then he gave me the great news,” Diaz said.

“This is definitely a big step up for Jo Jo. We are very excited because we feel he is ready and Jayson Velez is going to bring it. He had a tough fight his last outing and lets face it he is veteran,” His manager Ralph Heredia told Southern Califronia “Jo Jo knows what he is facing, he has to step up we know its going to be a very tough fight but I do believe Jo Jo is ready,” Heredia added.

Ranked 13 by the WBC in the featherweight division, Diaz will look to crack into the top 10 this year. A win over the former world title contender Jayson Velez will solidify his chances.

“If everything goes well I am looking to fight again in June. My main focus right now is to take care of Jayson Velez but hopefully I could be looking for a world title shot later this year,” Diaz said.

“We don’t want to look past this because we have a tough opponent but if everything goes well we are looking to bring him back in June. Obviously look good on HBO and look to get him back,” manager Ralph Heredia said.

Diaz vs. Velez will be a scheduled ten round featherweight bout opening up the HBO World Championship Boxing telecast headlined by former world champion Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) taking on number one rated IBF light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs).

“It will be a good card you have two Olympians. One that went to the Olympics and the other was the last U.S Gold Medalist. There is great fighter’s in that card. Andre Ward has a very tough fight with Sullivan Barrera and I have a tough fight as well,” Diaz said. “Fight night you will see a whole other Joseph Diaz. I know Jayson Velez will come with his plan but I will come in with a better game plan,” Diaz concluded.

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