Boxing fans are working their calendars this weekend, deciding which of several solid competing cards will get their attention (and, in one case, their PPV cash). No bad choices, but don’t sleep on the Golden Boy Promotions card in San Diego if you like solid matchmaking in all-action fights.
Note the early start time: prelims air starting at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. ET on Golden Boy’s YouTube stream, with the main card firing up at 8 p.m ET/5 p.m. PT on DAZN.
Lightweight Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr.’s decision loss to Devin Haney last December looks more impressive after Haney blasted through George Kambosos Jr. earlier this month. Diaz Jr. put on a far more competitive and exciting fight against the undisputed champion.
No soft touch for Diaz Jr. of Downey, California (32-2-1, 15 KOs) in his return Saturday. He takes on undefeated William Zepeda of Mexico (26-0, 23 KOs) at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Diaz Jr. came up in the hardscrabble gyms of Southern California, unafraid of facing anyone, including, at times, the man in the mirror. Diaz Jr. remains open about his mental health, and while training for Zepeda, he’s often fired up his Instagram account live late at night to speak with fans about the loneliness of late-night road work.
Zepeda announced his intentions to American audiences with a Ring City USA knockout win during the pandemic, followed by a thorough destruction of undefeated Hector Tanajara in July 2021. Tough Nicaraguan Rene Alvarado came up in weight and took Zepeda the distance. Expect Diaz Jr. and Zepeda to let it rip on Saturday.
“I know this fight is a really tough fight,” admitted Diaz Jr. “It’s sink or swim. I want to fight the best. I want to always challenge myself. I’m always progressing. Even my losses, I don’t look at them as losses. I look at them as lessons learned.”
Diaz Jr. respects the challenge and says he knows he’s going to come forward – well, try. “We’ll see who’s backing up,” he said at Thursday’s final news conference. This is good news for the fans.
Zepeda is a relentless offensive fighter with stamina built during high mountain training camps in the Mexican interior state of Jiquipilco. He is a devout Catholic who dedicates his efforts to a higher power. Being called the B-side is irrelevant to “El Camaron” (The Shrimp).
“I’ve always wanted these types of opportunities. I’ve trained really hard for this, and this fight won’t be the exception. We are very concentrated and focused because we know this is a big opportunity,” said Zepeda.
“I know I have a big test in front of me, but I also know that I am in this sport to face these types of challenges to demonstrate we have the qualities to be victorious in God’s name,” said Zepeda. “And like my coach (Jay “Panda” Najar) says, ‘Don’t ever bring us as prey again.’ This will be the ideal opportunity to show the world who William Zepeda is.”
Diaz Jr.’s strength is his stamina and fortitude, with enough power to be a threat but not so much his opponents won’t engage. Zepeda does nothing but engage, a classic high-rate counterpuncher who is (mostly) defensively responsible.
Give Golden Boy matchmaker Roberto Diaz for putting evenly-matched fighters together. There may be more prominent names on the marquee this weekend, but it’s hard to see any delivering more action. “This is a fight for the fans, and we’re going to show what we’re capable of,” said Zepeda. “And come Saturday night, people are going to know who Williams Zepeda is.”
The betting lines have Zepeda as the favorite for a good reason. Diaz Jr. is only three years older than the challenger, but he’s fought double the number of rounds with half the knockout percentage of Zepeda. Zepeda’s work rate is relentless, and his conditioning keeps him moving like an Energizer Bunny. If Diaz Jr. can stand up to it and fight with innovative skills, he has a chance. We’re picking Zepeda to win by late-round TKO-style stoppage in a wildly entertaining fight.
Co-Main Features OC’s Lex Rocha
Teed up for the co-main event is fellow Orange County native Alexis “Lex” Rocha (20-1, 13 KOs), who defends the NABO Welterweight title against Jesus’ Ricky’ Perez of Tijuana (24-3, 18 KOs).
Like stablemate Diaz Jr., Rocha sharpened his skills in the rough OC gym culture and is proud to represent his community’s attitude.
Rocha says he uses his single loss, a narrow decision to Rashidi Ellis, to drive him toward his goals today. He says Perez “is going to try and take away everything that I’ve worked hard for.”
Perez has good power, but he’s come up short when stepping up in competition. He says he’s motivated to put on a show for his hometown Tijuana fans. “I hope that fans get to see a big performance from the both of us. I feel very proud to represent the people of Tijuana and San Diego since I train here. I am going to feel right at home,” said Perez. “This isn’t the first time I am the underdog, and I’ve given my fair share of surprises as the B-side.”
Rocha looked impressive stopping stablemate Blair Cobbs, and despite his experience and veteran attitude, he’s still only 25 years old. Perez will allow Rocha to test his improved skills and gauge where he stands against the top talent in the welterweight division.
Super featherweight prospect Jorge “El Nino Dorado” Chavez of San Diego is off to a good start with three knockouts in three pro fights. He headlines the card’s prelim bouts, facing Adrian Leyva of Houston (3-3-2, 1 KO). Chavez is happy to perform in front of the hometown crowd. “I didn’t think this would happen so soon in my career. We’re making the most of this opportunity.” Golden Boy likes what they see from the 22-year-old and is keeping him busy.
The IBF World Flyweight title is on the line for Arely Mucino of Monterrey, Mexico (31-3-2, 11 KOs), and champion Leonela Yudica of Argentina (17-0-3). This is Yudica’s 11th title defense. Yudica says she’s been waiting for the chance to fight outside Argentina. “Not many people know who I am, but after this fight, they will. She is a Mexican fighter, so she will come into the ring like a tough warrior. I am going to have in front of me a female boxer with tremendous experience and a former world champion. This is going to be a tough fight, equally in the physical and technical side. But I am calm because I have prepared for this fight.”
Mucino will have the crowd behind her. “Fans can expect for me to put on a show. Everyone knows that female boxers get to work starting from the first round, and this fight won’t be the exception. This is Mexico vs. Argentina, and I will proudly represent my country’s flag. This fight is dedicated with much love to my father, as I will continue the legacy that he left behind for us to continue.”
Hector Valdez of Dallas (15-0, 8 KOs) opens the main DAZN broadcast at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m PT against Max Ornelas of Las Vegas (15-0-1, 5 KOs) in a10 round super bantamweight contest.
Also on the Undercard:
Japhethlee Llamido of Norwalk (9-0, 3 KOs) vs. Pablo Cruz of Houston (22-5-1, 6 KOs), eight rounds, featherweights;
Asa Stevens of Hawaii (2-0, 1 KO) vs. Mychaaquell Shields (debut), four rounds, super bantamweight;
Jan Salvatierra of Los Cabos, Mexico (8-2, 4 KOs) vs. Robert Ledesma of San Antonio (3-8, 2 KOs), four rounds, flyweights.