Joseph Diaz vs. William Zepeda: Preview, Prediction & Betting Odds
There's a surefire lightweight hit this weekend.
Joseph “JoJo” Diaz is back in action as he takes on hard-hitting William Zepeda on Saturday in the main event of an eight-bout Golden Boy Promotions card at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. The terrific crossroads bout features a former world champion looking to get back into world title contention and a rising star with pop in both hands who has yet to receive a taste of the championship tea.
Diaz (32-2-1, 15 KOs), a former junior lightweight titleholder, is coming off a competitive but clear points loss to Devin Haney in their WBC lightweight title fight last December in Las Vegas. Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) has since collected all four belts after defeating George Kambosos Jr. in a unanimous decision rout in their undisputed clash on June 5 in Melbourne, Australia. In an immediate rematch on October 16, the 23-year-old Haney again dominated Kambosos Jr. to retain the belts.
After the loss to Haney, Diaz was on the receiving end of some criticism for his performance. However, after the two Haney-Kambosos bouts—which NYFights scored a combined 21-3 in favor of the champion—that fight is being viewed differently. In retrospect, Diaz winning four rounds on one card, let alone three, was pretty impressive. Now the 29-year-old southpaw squares off against another fellow lefty in Zepeda, who has emerged as a world title contender over the last several years.
Zepeda (26-0, 23 KOs), of San Mateo, Mexico, saw a 15-bout knockout streak come to an end this past May in Ontario, California, where he fought former 130-pound titlist Rene Alvarado to a 10-round unanimous decision. The 26-year-old made his U.S. debut in December 2020 in Hollywood, where he scored a fifth-round knockout of Roberto Ramirez. He followed up with his best performance to date, a sixth-round stoppage of then-unbeaten Hector Tanajara last July 9 at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. On the same show, Diaz outpointed former secondary titlist, Javier Fortuna.
JOSPEH DIAZ VS. WILLIAM ZEPEDA BREAKDOWN
Just DAYS away from an action packed night in📍San Diego, CA!! Don’t miss @AlexisRocha777 in the co-main event on the #DiazJrZepeda card! And expect an absolute WAR between @JosephDiazJr and @williamzepeda2
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) October 24, 2022
Diaz comes in with a clear edge in experience; with that, he can give you a variety of looks in a fight. Some southpaws are slick and awkward, but Diaz is a come forward pressure fighter. And when he's walking down his opponents, Diaz is also a solid defender.
We could see the veteran get aggressive early to set the tone because if Zepeda lands the first punch and forces Diaz to fight off the back foot, it could be a long night for him. Sending a message early could be a mental advantage for Diaz, who is fighting at 135-pounds for the third time.
I'm still not convinced that Diaz is a true lightweight; I think he's better off at 130, to be honest, albeit he was stripped of his IBF junior lightweight title in 2021 when he missed weight by 3.6 pounds at the weigh-in for his bout against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov. The duo fought to a disputed 12-round draw, but if we're being frank, it was more of a lack of discipline than anything else for the Rakhimov fiasco.
Looking at Zepeda, he's a very strong puncher, and sometimes that can overshadow the other facets of his game. Like Artur Beterbiev, he has won every fight by knockout, but often people miss or ignore how good he is from a technical standpoint. Zepeda has a solid foundation and a jab that helps set up his power shots. But in the Alvarado fight, he got a little messy. Zepeda is a high-pressure fighter, and these boxers tend to have short careers because they tend to get into wars. And that's exactly what transpired over ten rounds.
Once Zepeda began to slow down, and it became clear he wasn't going to be able to score the KO over Alvarado, he got lost and found himself fighting Alvarado at mid-range and getting clipped with shots. Now you have to ask yourself, “What if he can't stop Diaz?” Zepeda is the bigger, stronger fighter. And while Diaz has the experience, Zepeda will outwork him enough to earn a unanimous decision. On the other hand, I also see Diaz rallying down the stretch but coming up short in his quest to obtain victory.
As for Zepeda's future, I believe he will only remain at 135 for a bit longer. He's a big guy for the weight class, and if he's going to win a world title, it will start at junior welterweight.
JOSEPH DIAZ VS. WILLIAM ZEPEDA PREDICTION
Zepeda, by unanimous decision