A Preview to Diaz vs. Holt Next Month

By John K. Way: It’s been announced that former world champions Julio Diaz and Kendall Holt will be meeting in a green light-red light crossroads fight on May 13th on Friday Night Fights on ESPN 2. Both fighters employ fan friendly, action-oriented styles, and with their careers hanging in the balance, Diaz and Holt are sure to bring everything to the ring to pull out a desperately needed win. Though a win for either fighter is unlikely to result in an immediate title shot, the winner of this fight will be in line for more television appearances which could then lead to subsequent title eliminators. Unfortunately, the loser of this fight will likely be headed for an indefinite stay in boxing purgatory.

After turning pro will a series of quick wins to build up his record, Julio Diaz won the honor of Prospect of the Year from the ESPN Boxing network. Diaz, a lightweight, was promptly felled by the Prospect of the Year jinx, just like Danny Jacobs and Joel Julio, losing a split decision to Angel Manfredy. Then, after losing to Manfredy, Diaz was ignominiously stopped in the first round by unheralded Juan Valenzuela. Unperturbed by his two losses, Diaz went about rebuilding his career, beating Miguel Huerta (TKO 8), Ernesto Zapada (TKO 7), and Felix St. Kitts (TKO 4), leading to a title elimination bout with Michigan based prospect Courtney Burton. After a seesaw battle, Diaz felled Burton with a flurry of unanswered punches, earning the stoppage in the 11th round.

Following his breakthrough win over Burton, Diaz continued to gather momentum by outpointing Javier Jauregui to win the IBF title strap by a majority decision that should have been unanimous. Never one to rest on his laurels Diaz quickly sought out a fight with lightweight kingpin, Jose Luis Castillo. In their title unification fight, Diaz jumped out to an early lead by boxing cleverly to frustrate the plodding Castillo, until he was gradually worn down by Castillo’s body assault and stopped. Many observers worried that Diaz, who had been badly cut around both eyes, suffered a separated rib, and was twice knocked down en route to the stoppage, would never recover from the beating he suffered in the loss.

Diaz seemed to assuage these fear with wins over Russell Jones (TKO 1), Ricky Quiles (W 12), and Jesus Chavez (KO 3), before he was badly beaten up and stopped in 8 rounds by division new comer, Juan Diaz. Once again forced to start from the bottom in an attempt to rebuild his career, Diaz won two tune-up fights before he was shockingly halted in five rounds against Rolando Reyes, followed by an embarrassing loss to Victor Manuel Cayo, which seemed to confirm that Diaz was finished. However, after retooling parts of his training and nutrition Diaz as a junior welterweight, to surprisingly outpoint division stalwart Herman Ngoudjo over 12 rounds. That win along with a tune-up against Pavel Miranda has breathed new life into his career, and brought on the fight with Holt.
For his part, Kendall Holt has also followed a hard road in pursuit of boxing stardom. He also first shot to prominence within the sport on Friday Night Fights, with an electrifying one punch, first round knockout over Gilberto Reyes in 2004. In his follow up fight, he badly stunned former Marine Thomas Davis also in the first round, but followed up too eagerly, and was himself knocked out in violent fashion by Davis in the same first round. Like Diaz he put the first round defeat behind him and marched on.

His next chance to shine came on Showtime’s ShoBox series, where he fought back and forth, recovering from an early knockdown to stop Chicago’s David Diaz in the 8th round. The exciting win did huge things for Holt’s career, securing televised wins over Jaime Rangel (W 12), Isaac Hylatshawiao (W 12), and Mike Arnaoutis (W 12). In pursuit of the WBO junior welterweight title Holt made his way to Columbia to fight Ricardo Torres for the vacant title. After dropping Torres and building up an insurmountable points lead, Holt was hurt by biased officiating and stopped in a disappointing 11th round loss.

Holt used his continued popularity to secure more television dates, where he dismantled Ben Tackie (W 12), Demetrius Hopkins (W 12), and then earned revenge over Torres in a thrilling 1st round knockout in shocking fashion. Riding high after beating Hopkins and Torres, Holt agreed to meet Timothy Bradley in a title unification match. The same night Diaz lost to Rolando Reyes, Holt blasted Bradley with a left hook, dropping him hard in the first round. But even as Holt’s path to victory seemed assured, Bradley, demonstrating remarkable powers of recuperation, bounced up and stubbornly out boxed Holt for the duration of the contest. Though Holt scored a flash knockdown in the 12th round, after the first stanza he never threatened to win again. He was completely baffled by Bradley smothering pressure, volume punching, and persistent body attack, and by the end he had taken a bad beating.

Badly dispirited by the loss to Bradley, Holt took 10 months off before jumping back into action against the extremely dangerous Kaiser Mabuza. In an IBF title eliminator, the vicious Mabuza used relentless pressure to force Holt to quit on his stool in the 6th round. The loss represented rock bottom for Holt, and though he has won one insignificant fight since then, his stock nevertheless plummeted badly as many critics questioned his heart, commitment, and whether he had anything left in the tank. Because of his lack of activity in the prize ring, it is unclear what effect the Bradley beating had on his psyche and skills, or how he has been affected by his crushing loss to Mabuza. As a result there are many lingering questions about Diaz and Holt that will hopefully be answer when the two step in the ring on May 13th.

Having spent most of his career at lightweight, will Diaz be at a disadvantage at junior welterweight? Can he compensate for his lack of athleticism with superior skill relative to Holt? In the past he has been plagued by a lack of durability; will he be able to hold up under Holt’s underrated punching power? Does Holt still have the drive and commitment to go twelve hard rounds with a persistent pressure fighter like Diaz? Will his tendency to lose focus and coast cost him another fight? When Diaz begins to attack his midsection, will he revert into a shell as against Bradley and Mabuza? Can he regain his form with only three fights over the last three years, or will ring rust hamper his performance?

Who ever prevails in this matchup, whether Diaz with his practiced skill or Holt with his punishing style, will emerge on the fringes of the top 15 of the junior welterweight division. With a win over Holt and Ngoudjo Diaz, who is still new at the weight, would still have some way to travel before he could demand a title shot outright. He could consolidate his claim as a contender and further his comeback by signing for winnable fights with legitimate contenders like Lamont Peterson, Breisdis Prescott, or Juan Urango. For Kendall Holt, victory on May 13th would probably provide a quick route back to world class prominence. He could probably parlay the win for a rematch with Mabuza to avenge his loss, or perhaps a potentially explosive fight with Zab Judah for a world title. In this way, victory is critical on May 13th.

Article posted on 02.04.2011

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