Felix Diaz’s shot at unified 140-pound world champion Terence Crawford is what the challenger’s trainer calls “maybe the last golden opportunity of his life.”
Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) will take on the switch-hitting Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) on Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden, matching the left-handed Dominican against one of boxing's pound-for-pound best.
“Terence Crawford is the fight I’ve asked for. It's the biggest of my career and the chance of a lifetime,” Diaz said. “Stylistically, I’m better than anyone he’s fought. Whether by knockout or decision, I’m more determined and confident than ever in my abilities to win a world championship for my country.”
Felix Diaz, a two-time Olympian who won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, expects plenty of support from New York’s large Dominican population for his Big Apple debut. Countryman Joan Guzman, a former two-division champion, will join trainer Joel Diaz (no relation to Felix Diaz) in the challenger’s corner.
“Guzman’s his idol—the best the Dominican Republic’s ever had,” manager Jose Nunez said. “It’s definitely motivation having him there.”
The 5-foot-5 Diaz plans a fierce, aggressive attack against the 5-foot-8 Crawford, who will be making his fifth title defense since winning a vacant 140-pound championship in April 2015.
“Terence is the favored, house fighter, but Felix will handle the pressure," Joel Diaz said. "Felix can hurt Crawford if he lets his punches go and catches him with a good shot. It’s a matter of timing Crawford with the right punch.”
Diaz, 33, has won two straight bouts since experiencing his only career defeat by majority decision to two-division world titleholder Lamont Peterson in October 2015.
The Dominican rebounded to defeat previously unbeaten Sammy Vasquez Jr. by unanimous decision last July, and gained a sixth-round TKO of Levis Morales in his last fight in December.
“Being the underdog [against Peterson and Vasquez] motivated me in both fights," Diaz said. "Peterson was the best at 140 and has more power than Crawford, but I truly think I won. They were building Sammy up as a top prospect, but I redeemed myself after losing to Peterson. I’ll do the same against Crawford.”
Crawford, 29, is a two-division champion who won his first world title at 135 pounds in March 2014 with a unanimous decision over Ricky Burns. He vacated that title one year later after two successful defenses to compete at 140.
Crawford stopped Thomas Dulorme in six rounds in April 2015 to become a 140-pound champion, then unified world titles with a unanimous decision over Viktor Postol last July.
Diaz fought as high as 154 pounds in March 2011, but has since trimmed down under strength and conditioning guru Alex Ariza. After fighting at between 142 and 147 pounds for his last four bouts, Diaz claims he’s at his most dangerous at 140.
“I can really crack at 140,” he said. "I’m stronger with more speed and power in both hands.”
- Felix Diaz