Like most successful boxers, Felix Diaz is short and quick with his punches. About the only thing shorter and quicker might be his responses to questions.
Ask Diaz if he’s concerned about fighting a larger and potentially stronger and more powerful Sammy Vasquez Jr. on Saturday night, and he snaps a reply like a stinging jab: “No.”
What about adjusting mid-training camp from fighting right-handed prospect Levan Ghvamichava (as originally scheduled for tonight) to battling southpaw contender Vasquez—any concern about that?
“I have no problem with that adjustment.”
Are you the best fighter Vasquez will have faced?
“Yes, without a doubt.”
Indeed a man of few words, Felix Diaz (17-1, 8 KOs) intends to let his fists do the talking Saturday when he steps between the ropes for the first time in nine months and battles Sammy Vasquez Jr. (21-0, 15 KOs) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
The scheduled 10-round clash is the co-main event to Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense against Chris Arreola, and features two hungry and talented young fighters looking to inch closer to their first world title opportunity.
For the 32-year-old Diaz—a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from the Dominican Republic—Saturday’s fight represents his second consecutive bout against a top-level opponent. On October 17, he slugged it out with former 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson in a contracted 144-pound brawl, dropping a majority decision in a contest that appeared closer than two of the judges’ scores.
“I honestly think Peterson was the best in that [140-pound] division, and I honestly feel I beat him,” Diaz says. “I will love a rematch, but I have to get by Sammy first.”
The 5-foot-5 Diaz stood tall while absorbing a bunch of big shots from Peterson (34-3-1, 17 KOs), and Vasquez will likely come with similar power—the kind of power that the 30-year-old U.S. National Guard veteran used to stop 10 of his last 12 opponents, including a sixth-round TKO of Aron Martinez in January.
Again, though, Diaz claims to be unfazed by anything—be it Vazquez’s heavy hands or jumping up in weight.
“I'm not concerned with his power. And the rise in weight won't be an issue," says Diaz, who has previously fought as high as 149½, 150½ and 154 pounds. "I spar with middleweights.”
While Diaz might be reticent to talk up this intriguing showdown, his trainer is more than happy to do so.
Joel Diaz (no relation) is quick to acknowledge Vasquez’s skills, but believes the 5-foot-10 native of Monessen, Pennsylvania, has no clue what he’s signed up for.
“Felix is more than ready for Vasquez, especially after being in with Lamont Peterson, a guy who fought superior competition, bigger names and is one of the elite fighters in the sport,” says Diaz, who guided Timothy Bradley Jr. to a 147-pound title. “After the fight, Lamont Peterson was in the corner with a bag of ice on his ribs. We thought we were more effective and landed the bigger shots, and [the ice bag] was proof if it.
“Vasquez is crafty and can punch, but his style is nothing new to Felix. We’re extremely ready to take advantage of this opportunity—no doubt about it.”
Any more questions?
For complete coverage of Vasquez vs Diaz, check out our fight page.