Joseph Diaz, Jr. had his hands full with Jayson Velez Saturday night on HBO, but not so much that he couldn’t grab a clear decision victory. He’s a talented guy, Diaz, more talented than Velez, and this was his sternest test yet — and a test that revealed he isn’t quite a complete fighter.
One of boxing’s most celebrated prospects-turning-contender, the featherweight Diaz came out sharpshooting against the taller Velez, who’d been in tough and come up just short of wins in his past two appearances against top boxers on HBO. He’s very good at fighting in the pocket, which he needs to be at 5’5″-ish, especially against long-armed 126-pounders like Velez.
But there was a sign that it wouldn’t be an easy night right away, when a long right hand opened a cut under Diaz’s right eye. That right hand from Velez — whether as a lead or a one-two — frequently found its home, sometimes when the shorter Diaz was pulling back in an ill-advised fashion. One might’ve wobbled Diaz, even, but he recovered quickly. And he faded a little late, but his stamina also quickly rebounded (Velez had a couple rounds where he outworked Diaz late, ultimately losing on the scorecards 100-91, 99-91, 98-92).
And quickness is an asset of Diaz’s, overall. He would fire single left hands that Velez never figured out, mainly because they were too fast. He was busier overall, sharper, landed most of the showier punches. His body work was especially mean. It helped that Velez has never met a punch he could dodge or block, and didn’t know what to do after landing those right hands.
Still, Diaz’s size, defense and power are areas where he suffers deficits. Some of those those things, he can’t do much about. It’s hard to imagine him having a chance right now against the likes of elite featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko. The key is “right now.” Does he have a ton of talent? Sure. Does he have next-level stuff? Maybe not, and that means he’ll need to maximize what he can improve to have a chance when he steps up yet another level.
Until then, he’ll be fun when matched against fellow aggressive opponents. He could become an attraction, as a result of that and his Mexican-American heritage. Regardless of his ceiling, he’s a welcome fighter on the big-time scene.