Featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr., being steadily brought along by Golden Boy Promotions since signing with Oscar De La Hoya's company following his appearance in the 2012 Olympics, is set for the biggest fight of his young professional career.
Diaz will make his HBO debut when he takes on former featherweight world title challenger Jayson Velez in a scheduled 10-round fight on March 26 (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET/PT) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Golden Boy announced on Wednesday.
"These are two exciting, up-and-coming fighters, with the winner likely soon looking at a world championship battle," De La Hoya, the Golden Boy CEO, said. "With so much at stake, fans can bank on an action-packed fight with both guys going all out for the knockout."
The bout will open the HBO telecast headlined by the previously announced 12-round fight between former super middleweight world champion Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), who is making the move to light heavyweight, and Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) in what is supposed to be a precursor to a November fight between Ward and unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
"I am excited and very grateful about making my debut on HBO" Diaz said. "HBO is known for putting on the best fights and I feel honored to defend my [regional] title for the first time on the network. Every fighter dreams to fight on a big stage like HBO and I am grateful to my team, Golden Boy Promotions, my manager Ralph Heredia and my father and trainer for helping me get to this point in my career.
Diaz (19-0, 11 KOs), a 23-year-old southpaw from South El Monte, California, is one of Golden Boy's prized prospects. He steadily stepped up his opposition in 2015, a year in which he went 5-0. Velez is taking an even bigger step up against the battle-tested Velez.
"I know Jayson Velez is a very tough contender, but I promise not to let my team and my fans down," Diaz said.
Velez (23-1-1, 16 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, is 1-1-1 in his last three fights but has faced quality two quality opponents in that stretch.
He got a shot at then-featherweight world titleholder Evgeny Gradovich in November 2014 and fought him to a split draw, although most viewed the result as a charitable decision for Velez. Seven months later Velez returned and outpointed Daniel Ramirez over 10 rounds. In November, he faced contender Ronny Rios on the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto undercard in Las Vegas and lost a unanimous decision.
"I am ready and focused for this fight," said Velez, a protégé of former four-division titleholder Miguel Cotto, his promoter. "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."