The center of attention Saturday night in the Theater at Madison Square Garden is the highly anticipated junior lightweight world title fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The end of year fight of the year candidate and Top Rank promoted card of boxing televised on ESPN is also highlighted by the undercard that includes 23-year old Christopher Diaz.
Diaz, moving up in weight to junior lightweight is a Top Rank prospect and fighting a fourth time at the Garden, so the “Mecca” of boxing is no stranger to this young fighter who was raised in Philadelphia after coming from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.
For this fight Saturday night against Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz he trained in Linden New Jersey under new trainer Chino” Rivas. Simply put, Diaz felt a change was needed that will work to his advantage.
Ranked 6th by the WBO, the four-year pro at 21-0 with 13 KO’s has every opportunity now to move up the ladder. Of course that means going out a winner as the year ends and vying for a title at his new weight.
He says, fighting on the undercard of a significant main event with two Olympian champions, “Is a Great fight for the fans.” Diaz also said, “It helps a lot,” meaning the sold out Garden Theater will be electric and of course always provides that added incentive when he enters the ring.
More importantly, Christopher Diaz is looking forward to showing what was worked on with his new team. There will be punches and much faster being thrown at his opponent.
“I learned a lot with sparring and angles,” he said Thursday afternoon at the final press conference for a Top Rank card that needs no hype, attributed of course to the main event.
“Not always throw hard punches, “ he said. “Fast punches are better than hard punches. I got a long fight to fight.”
And this should be a fight that propels Christopher Diaz to where he wants to be. Top Rank has projected him to be one of those rising superstars from Puerto Rico. And Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum has a tendency of developing some great champions from Puerto Rico including Miguel Cotto who lost the final fight of his career Saturday night in the main arena.
“Now Cotto is retired,”said Diaz. “We gotta take that same feeling and style we got from him to make great fights.” This will be his first fight in the 10-round limit after a third round knockout on April 21 in Kissimmee Florida.
He will also bring thoughts and prayers to his fellow people in Puerto Rico that are slowly recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Most of his immediate family are in New Jersey but there are those close to him that are still suffering from the damage that was sustained from the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.
“We lost a lot of things, all the furniture,” he says. “The family is good here in New Jersey with me. I cried a couple of times. Puerto Rico is not the same now. After the fight I am going there, make some gifts for the kids and everything to give some happy moments to Puerto Rico.”
And moving up in weight, of course that is a challenge. Diaz says that 130 pounds is where he belongs.
“My body grew up and now a long time it will help me more.” he said. “I’m more powerful. Not focused now to lose weight. You can’t focus on losing weight because mental you won’t be there.”
So Christopher Diaz has learned and it has not been long. The boxing crowd at the Theater will see this new and exciting fighter and there is one other thing, the nickname “Pitufo” and that also means something each time he laces up the gloves.
“My father’s nickname was Pitufo,” he said. “When he died, in his honor I put that as my nickname.”