Boxing has been on quite a run these past few weeks as some matchups lived up to the hype while fans received pleasant surprises with others. Much of that has to do with matchmaking and those involved in putting these events together. One of the more recognized matchmakers in the game is Golden Boy Promotions Vice President and Matchmaker Roberto Diaz.
The 48-year-old has been the subject of criticism in the past as he is known to match the fighters underneath their umbrella extremely tough. Most would take offense to that, but Diaz welcomes all of it and stands by his work when I asked him about it.
Diaz told NYF, “At the end of the day, it’s not so much about winning the fight but if it makes sense, does the fighter want it, and is it good for boxing. Through the years here at Golden Boy, we have shown that we are willing to put our fighters in tough. I always hear that GBP doesn’t baby their fighters and puts them in tough. I like that! At the end of the day, when fighters come into the sport, they do it to become world champions and not babied.”
Diaz continued: “Obviously, there is a building stage when they are 16,17, or 18 years old because you don’t want to end their career in one or two years. After that building stage, it’s time to move on, do your thing, and if you want to be great, here is your fight. A loss doesn’t determine a career or finish one. It builds character. I’m proud of fighters like Jo Jo Diaz, as he has shown that he is willing to take on challenges in the past and present. He raises his hand to the fights that no one wants to take.”
That statement rings bells as fighters are too worried about records and not focused on making the best fights.
After establishing that the criticism doesn’t bother him, we transitioned into what’s in store for Golden Boy next year. “We are excited about closing out the year with our event on December 18th with (Gilberto) “Zurdo” Ramirez, Marlen Esparza, and Seniesa Estrada defending her title,” Diaz said. “I’m excited for 2022 once we get done with the little holiday break. If Zurdo wins this fight, he will be the mandatory for Dimity Bivol. It’s a fight that he has been wanting.”
As we focused on 2022, Roberto took a second to shed some light on a young prospect who should slide into contender status next year, and that is lightweight William Zepeda (24-0).
The 25 year old southpaw recently won the WBA Continental Americas title and looks to make a lot of noise in the future. Diaz told NYFIGHTS, “William Zepeda had a big coming out this year and is someone I signed out of Mexico a few years ago. Now people are starting to get to know him worldwide, so I expect big things from him next year!”
After discussing the young Zepeda, Diaz went into Golden Boy Promotions’ high-profile fighters. First on the list was undefeated welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr.
How hard has it been to match Ortiz Jr, I asked, and what are the roadblocks that come along with it?
“Of course, Vergil Ortiz Jr. is getting a step closer to that world title fight,” Diaz said. “He’s right there knocking on the door. In the past, up to now, it’s been very easy (as far as matchmaking) because he is one of those young fighters that has never turned down a fight. The hard part is before you present it, ask yourself if this is the right guy or is this going to progress his career? But once you offer it to his team, they quickly agree to take on the opponent.”
Diaz continued, “Now, it’s a matter of patience because you’re knocking on the door but aren’t facing the world champions. So, you can’t drop back and fight someone that doesn’t make sense or is low in the rankings. All of the guys at the top are protecting themselves because they are close to a world title, and it’s too much of a risk to fight a Vergil Ortiz Jr. This is where it gets tricky, and we have to be patient and find the right guy. But that’s the art and the beauty of the sport. The “O” looks pretty, but fighters will be remembered by the great fights they were in and not because of wins and losses. Look at Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler. They all fought each other and lost as well, but we remember them till this day.”
He touched on Golden Boy’s solid middleweight, still improving Jaime Munguia. “Munguia is looking for the big fights and world title fights. 2022 should be a very good year.”
We moved on to GBP’s other star, lightweight Ryan Garcia (21-0). Ryan was supposed to fight Joseph Diaz but got hurt while preparing for the fight.
Ryan has been vocal lately as he has called for a fight against the undisputed lightweight champion George Kambosos and reignited the flame on a potential fight with Gervonta “Tank” Davis. I expressed to Roberto that I genuinely believe the Ryan vs. Tank fight is the biggest one the sport can make second to Fury vs. Joshua.
He agreed. “The lightweights are showing they are the hottest division in boxing right now. With all of the changes and talent, Ryan needs to get right back into the mix,” the California resident said. “Imagine the promotion! Aside from the matchup, you have Mayweather vs. Oscar reliving their history! It’s good for boxing and the fans. It’s just both sides need to want it! We are willing to do it as we have worked with everyone from Top Rank to PBC if it makes sense.”
Diaz added, “Boxing needs to get out of this network thing or in-house promoter thing. Imagine Tank (Gervonta Davis) against Ryan, Haney, or Kambosos. These are all great fights. If Don King and Bob Arum could work together back in the day, anyone can work together as long as you push ego aside.”
To that, I say, a little louder for those in the back! Boxing needs to hear this and make the fights people want to see.
Diaz said, “Jaime Munguia is looking for the big fights and world title ones. 2022 should be a very good year.”
My Three Cents
I’ve had this discussion with many involved in boxing and guys that are in the know or, as Woodsy would say, Mr. X. Everyone seems to believe that in 2022, we are going to get those marinated or over-marinated fights that we have long desired. It’s great to hear from this Grade A matchmaker concerning some of the obstacles he has to overcome and what the company has in store for next year.
So, if you’re a Golden Boy Promotions prospect and want to get that world title shot one day, Roberto Diaz is going to make you work for it, but the payoff at the end will be well worth it.