On December 17th, Joseph “Jojo” Diaz, Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) will look to defend his NABF Featherweight Championship for the fourth time this year, as the former 2012 U.S. Olympian steps into the ring for a 10-round slugfest against Horacio “Violento” Garcia (30-1-1, 22 KOs) as the co-main event of Bernard Hopkins’s final fight at the “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, California. Golden Boy Promotions caught up with the charismatic and undefeated fighter from South El Monte, CA ahead of the biggest fight of his career in an exclusive Q&A session. Below is what “Jojo” had to say:
How big is it for you to be co-main event on the final fight of Future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins?
It’s huge, it’s a dream come true and a blessing. When I was little, I would watch Bernard Hopkins fight and I really admire his story of fighting in prison and becoming a professional fighter from there and later a world champion. Just knowing I’m the co-main event on such a big card with the legend of Bernard Hopkins-a future Hall of Famer, will not be something I will take for granted and I will showcase to the world who Joseph Diaz, Jr. is. While this is the end of an era for Bernard Hopkins, it is the beginning of my career also.
What makes Horacio Garcia a dangerous opponent?
I saw his last fight at the Toshiba Plaza the night before Canelo vs. Khan with no idea I would be fighting him in the future, but my manager and I saw he was a very strong, talented fighter. He has an effective jab and throws lots of jabs to the body with a very tight defense. We know going in to this fight, he will be a dangerous opponent with a good record. I think him coming in at 126 pounds will benefit him because at his previous 122 pound weight, he was coming in weak and dehydrated and not living up to his full capabilities as far as strength. We know we have to be cautious and come in with a good game plan. I’m going to showcase to everyone that not only am I good fighter, I’m good brawler and can take shots and deliver shots.
Are you doing anything different to prepare for this opponent?
For this opponent, I’m training a lot harder because I know this is a big fight for me and will dictate where I am at and determine if I will be fighting on HBO next year again. I know if I do perform well, HBO will want me on their cards again so I need to go out there and perform. I know my opponent will be coming in very strong, but I am focusing on lots of lateral movement and my footwork, as well as my angles after my combinations and using my jab a lot whenever I’m fighting. Going in to the fight, I know I’m going to dictate my pace by using my jab.
As a local LA fighter fighting at a great venue such as the “Fabulous” Forum, do you put pressure on yourself to put on a show?
Yes, I put a lot of pressure on myself but it gives me motivation to train harder and to be more focused and to give the fight fans what they want to see. Being from LA and knowing I am fighting at the Forum, where legends have fought in that arena is a dream come true. Knowing I am going to have all my fans there supporting me from my Team Diaz, Jr. fans to my local LA fans, it’s going to be a dream come true hearing them chant my name once I’m entering the ring.
What does boxing mean to you?
Boxing means everything to me. It brings out the best in me and makes me the man I am today, and helps me keep my composure. But most of all, it benefits me by supporting my family financially, I get to support them so they don’t have to worry about struggling. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to help out my parents because we grew up poor, I knew that boxing could pay well. Once I started competing in the amateurs, I started getting a monthly stipend and ever since then, I was hooked.
Describe yourself as a fighter.
I feel I am an elite fighter and I can do anything because I am an all-around fighter and can adjust to any opponent. If an opponent wants to box me, then I will be able to cut him off and be the aggressor. If the opponent wants to be the aggressor, I am able to create my angles and box a little bit. I feel that overall, I am the full package and because I can move around and create my angles or bang on the inside. I have the speed and power, but I know I’m not the best fighter and still have room for improvement. That’s why I’m in the gym 24/7 to perfect my craft.
Outside of the ring, we know you as a very nice guy who’s always smiling. What happens to that once you get inside the ring?
Outside of the ring, I’m a very nice, outgoing guy and very humble. The reason why I get so angry inside the ring is because I know that the person I am fighting is going to try to defeat me and try to take what I want to be in life and what I am providing for my family financially. If my opponent defeats me, I’m not going to be able to provide for my family or be that role model for the kids because they see me as an undefeated fighter. When I’m inside the ring,
I use that anger as motivation knowing that I have little kids looking up to me as their role model and that’s what motivates me to be a vicious beast inside the ring.
How special is it to have your father as your trainer and experience the success together?
It’s very special and it’s very touching, because ever since I was a little kid, my dad has been my best friend. We used to play baseball together and he would be my coach trying to be make sure I was the best baseball player I could be. Even though my dad would work over twelve hours a day, he would come home every day and be very energetic with me. He would always want to be there for me, and I really appreciate that. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He has kept me off the streets, away from bad influences and on the right track doing my homework and at the gym. He has made me a caring family man, and I really appreciate him for that. It’s very touching and a blessing having my dad as my trainer because he sacrifices more than people could imagine. I want to take the time to thank him and let him know we are in this for the long haul.
Hopkins vs. Smith, Jr. is a 12-round WBC International Light Heavyweight Championship presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Star Boxing. Diaz, Jr. vs. Garcia is a 10-round NABF featherweight title match presented by Golden Boy Promotions. Usyk vs. Mchunu a 12-round WBO Cruiserweight World Title battle presented by K2 Promotions in association with Main Events. The event is sponsored by Cerveza Tecate, BORN BOLD and Casa Mexico Tequila. The event will be televised live on Saturday, December 17, 2016 from Inglewood, California’s “Fabulous” Forum on HBO’s flagship series beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Tickets for Hopkins vs. Smith, Jr. are now on sale and are priced at $25, $50, $75, $105 and $205, not including applicable service charges and taxes, with a total ticket limit of 12 per person. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or the Forum Box Office (Monday through Friday 11:00am PST to 7:00pm PST) at (310) 330-7300. Tickets are also available for purchase at www.fabulousforum.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
B-roll and images of Hopkins vs. Smith are available for use and download HERE or by copying and pasting: bit.ly/HopkinsSmith. Video and photo credit must be given to Golden Boy Promotions.