Unbeaten 147-pound contender Sammy Vasquez Jr. desperately wants to test himself against a world-class opponent.
It was supposed to happen in his last fight against veteran Aron Martinez, but Martinez didn’t put up much of a battle. Then it was going to happen July 16 against former world champion Luis Collazo, but Collazo tore a calf muscle in training camp this week and had to pull out of the fight, which was to be the co-main event to the Deontay Wilder-Chris Arreola heavyweight title showdown at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Collazo’s injury left Vasquez in a state of flux. Would he still fight July 16? And if so, would he be forced to face a soft fill-in opponent?
Answers: Yes, and definitely no.
Sammy Vasquez Jr. (21-0, 15 KOs) will indeed return to the ring July 16, only now he’ll take on 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz (17-1, 8 KOs) in the lead-in to Wilder-Arreola. The scheduled 10-rounder will be Vasquez’s first fight in nearly six months and Diaz’s first in almost nine months.
Diaz was originally slated to fight Miguel Vazquez on May 28 but had to pull out because of an injury. Then he was set to battle Levan Ghvamichava in the main event of a Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays card on July 12 at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, California.
With Diaz—a 32-year-old Dominican Republic native—replacing Collazo in Birmingham, Ghvamichava will now face undefeated Domonique Dolton (17-0-1, 9 KOs) of Sterling Heights, Michigan, on July 12 in Nice (Fox Sports 1, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT).
Vasquez, a 30-year-old who did two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army’s National Guard, has been idle since his sixth-round TKO of Martinez on January 23.
Coming off a stunning upset of former champion Devon Alexander, Martinez was expected to provide Vasquez his stiffest test to date, but that didn’t happen as “The Sergeant” pummeled Martinez, who failed to answer the bell for Round 7 because of an arm injury. That gave Vasquez his 10th stoppage in his last dozen bouts dating to August 2013.
Now the lifelong resident of Monessen, Pennsylvania, will run up against Diaz, who gave former 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson all he could handle back on October 17, eventually dropping a 12-round majority decision for the first defeat of his career.
When he steps through the ropes to face fellow southpaw Vasquez, Diaz will end the second longest layoff of his professional career.