Feliz Diaz is not concerned about being that heavy underdog when he goes in the ring with unified WBO/WBC junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. This is his biggest fight as a professional and the 2008 Olympic Gold medalist from the Dominican Republic has been in the spotlight.
However, and mentioned since this fight was signed, Diaz is facing a top three fighter and many won’t dispute how Terence Crawford has got to where he is. This is New York City at the arena known as “The Mecca” of boxing and in the annals of boxing there has been one or more upsets that have come from the underdog fighter.
“I’m up for the challenge,” said Diaz Thursday afternoon at the final press conference for a stocked fight card that is promoted by Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment. On the undercard Shakur Stevenson the 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist will be making his New York debut in his second pro fight after winning an initial bout as a pro.
It’s only appropriate that Crawford and Diaz will be trading fists in New York, and the Dominican fans are awaiting to hopefully see their newest and potential superstar in the sport. But Crawford is an undefeated champion and has his eyes on more which makes this a compelling main event and boxing what it always was at the Garden.
He said through an interpreter, “ I really believe this will be a war on Saturday night. I’m going to have massive support from my fellow Dominicans. I have a great chance of winning this fight. I see a lot of weaknesses in his game that I know I can take advantage of. He is one of the best, but I have fought at welterweights and he hasn’t. I believe I have the power to hurt him.”
But Crawford has other ideas. He always takes care of business in the ring and is also getting the well deserved attention with his first fight in New York. At, 30-0, 21 KO’s the two division champion from Omaha Nebraska is a popular draw and has stopped five of his last seven opponents. HBO Boxing, will once again televise another Crawford main event and the network has seen that popularity as a fighter in demand on the network.
So Diaz does have a hill to climb and it can be understood why he goes in this fight as the underdog. Every fighter has a style and perhaps this will be the night when boxing fans get to see that ability to jab and perhaps connect with the right punch to nail Crawford. The sport has Terence Crawford as that superstar that Top Rank has elevated to this point and there is always room for Diaz to become another star if he wins this one.
Though most boxing experts don’t see Crawford losing his titles, there are those who refuse to take into account that Diaz does not have a chance. Diaz of course has that attitude that Crawford has not met anyone of his magnitude and when the bell rings Saturday night the ignition button will be ready to start.
“This is the biggest opportunity of my life except for the Olympics,” he said months ago at the initial press conference that made the fight official. “It’s the same level but as a professional.” At 19-1,9 KO’s it is known that Diaz has been looking at fights at welterweight because getting opponents at 140 have not been easy to get.
As they faced each other for the final time before they meet in the ring, Crawford was also confident and thrilled to be fighting outside of Omaha. He has a following there but it was time for a change and his promoter Bob Arum was able to secure the main arena at the Garden.
A win in New York makes Crawford more marketable and just as important are the opportunities of major fights that will come his way.
“The ring, no matter where it is, always feels like home to me,” Crawford said. “ I just have to keep winning. If I keep winning then the opportunities for even bigger fights will present themselves. But this is a really big fight to me. Diaz is a worthy challenger and you can’t bring just any fight to The Garden.”
But first it’s this main event at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. A national television audience will be watching and so will the New York City fight fans, many Dominican who will coming to cheer on their newest sensation in the sport.
Crawford is expected to put on a show, and he could be tested. As for Diaz, a loss will not put a dent in his career and these are the type of fights he has been seeking. But no fighter wants to be considered an underdog and that mindset could go a long way Saturday night.
Comment: Rich Mancuso [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso