For most, coming in, this was the fight that carried the most intrigue in terms of close opposition. 🇺🇸Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz (32-1-1, 15KO) had moved in weight up to take this opportunity against perennial well-ranked Lightweight world contender 🇩🇴Javier Fortuna (36-3-1, 25KO) for the rights of obtaining the “Interim” WBC Lightweight Title. A close fight through the first half of the bout, Diaz snatched momentum in the second half, and didn’t let it go, en route to receiving a Unanimous Decision victory over the Dominican fighter in front of Diaz’s home-based California crowd.
The first couple of rounds were quality rounds, as they both established what is was that they wanted to do in terms of plan tactics. The springy Fortuna worked the jab upstairs, and downstairs often, looking to use his faster feet to step out of range to make Jo Jo continue to reset his stance. Diaz’s superior timing, and gauge of distance was paramount to his pursuit of making Fortuna gunshy.
Round 3, Fortuna began to pick up the pace, but early on, all his punches were blocked by Diaz’s stubborn elbows-in, tight high guard, and Jo Jo patiently waited until Fortuna got a little tired to whip his combinations on the inside. Diaz appeared comfortable in this setting.
There were warnings administered by Referee Raul Caiz Jr. to both fighters for repeated rabbit-punching, however the rate of the fouls were egregiously overblown, as it didn’t happen that often, nor was there any mal-intent behind the punches that did stray a little long to the back of the head.
An inadvertent headbutt in the round caused a pretty bad cut by the left eye of Jo Jo Diaz, around the scar tissue of his eye injury of the 🇺🇸Tevin Farmer fight. The cut profusely bled out, but Joseph kept his poise the rest of the round (and the rest of the fight for that matter) as he continued to effectively walk Javier down. Fortuna in the 4th decided to stand his ground more and trade with Jo Jo, looking to gain the upper hand with impenitence.
Him being in Jo Jo’s wheelhouse allowed Diaz to free his hands up more. Caiz continued to implement himself too much in the action, taking an uncalled for point away from Diaz due to a rabbit-punch, not taking into account that Fortuna turned his head, so a bleeding Diaz grew incredibly frustrated as well due to what was taking place in the ring.
He took his frustration out aggressively on Fortuna in the following action, throwing heavy, prolonged combinations, turning it into a street fight of sorts, and Fortuna wasn’t standing up to it all that well in those instances.
Fortuna did show his guts in round 5 as he pushed forward, landing well with the right hook to the body, and forcing Jo Jo to shell up with his activity upstairs. Fortuna continued his high rate of activity in the next couple of rounds, tacking the points on. Diaz did a good job counterpunching, but wasn’t active enough here, nor was he able to hurt Fortuna extensively to get the most out of his short work rate in this moment. Jo Jo’s accuracy on his counter, and pop-shots increased from round 8 on, as he began to take command.
Joseph Diaz did some beautiful work in round 9, rolling with the punches in closed quarters, and landing counters to the chest, and to the torso with full impact, and connected on a 3-punch combination that appeared to get the attention of the Dominican fighter.
The 10th frame is where Diaz began to fully assert himself, forcing the crafty Fortuna to get on his bicycle as he was buying a little time trying to find answers towards stopping Jo Jo’s pursuit. This was certainly Joseph’s best round performance-wise in the fight, and culminated it by hurting Javier in the waning seconds. it was clear that Fortuna needed to do something fast in order to get him back into this fight.
Round 11, Diaz eased up the pace a bit, and went heavily defensive, which enabled Fortuna to reassert his position, picking away at that defense. He sacrificed punching power there in order to land more to be able to win the round, but the question at this point was, could be still win a decision by this point, or did he need a knockout
Apparently, Javier felt the urgency, as he stepped everything up in the 12th, looking to take out the smaller fighter who moved up in weight, but Diaz was too sturdy on his feet, and too calm to be overtaken in that regard. While Fortuna tried for the full 3 minutes, it was Jo Jo who managed to make his opponent wobble once more from a combination.
The last 10 seconds of the bout was largely posturing done by both men, but with the type of fight they put up for 35 minutes, and 50 seconds…it yielded zero boo’s from the crowd, and both Fortuna and Diaz showed immediate respect, and appreciation of one another after the final bell and the crowd showed appreciation as well.
It was pretty clear who won the fight, and the official scorecards read out as 117-110, 116-111, 115-112, as the nod went to the right man, that being Jo Jo Diaz, receiving a much needed win. Tré Berry of Combat Project scored it 114-112, and had it 7-4-1 in terms of rounds, of course with the point deduction factored in. Jon Uddin himself scored the fight 116-111 for Diaz, so the call was Unanimous all-the-way around.
This big Jojo victory not only puts him in a position to fight for a version/variation of a WBC Lightweight title, but it perhaps may be a new beginning for the very talented Diaz, who has been dealing with mental health issues, instability in his inner circle, with a lack of discipline sprinkled into the mix. Perhaps this was his best win of his career? or if not, then this probably ranks second to his scintillating win over former Super-Featherweight World Titlist 🇺🇸Tevin Farmer last year.
Naturally stocky, Diaz appears to fit Lightweight well enough to compete with top talent, and though he doesn’t have the homerun punch, he hits hard enough to keep opponents honest so that they won’t try to walk through his shots. During the post-fight, he went and called out 🇺🇸Devin “The Dream” Haney (whom holds the lower rung of WBC titles), and 🇺🇸Ryan Garcia (who used to hold the “interim” title that Diaz has just won). Certainly the prospects look bright for Jojo, and if he keeps the trend up, the distractions will be minimal, which will allow his gifts to flourish on the big stage.