Southern California Prospects On Display

Several of the best Southern California prospects showcase their skills on Thursday, including the nephew of Oscar De La Hoya.

Undefeated Jojo Diaz (12-0, 8 Kos) headlines the boxing card at Fantasy Springs Casino when he faces Roberto Castaneda (21-7-1, 15 Kos) on the Golden Boy Promotions main event. The former US Olympian’s fight will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Diaz, a southpaw speedster, lives and trains out of South El Monte. He participated in the London Olympic Games in 2012, was eliminated early but looked impressive. Veteran trainer Ben Lira has been working on transferring Diaz more into the pro style.

Lira is one of the fight game’s best kept secrets. Throughout the decades the old wizard has groomed many of the best prizefighters, both male and female. It’s a long list and includes former pupils John Molina, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, and Hector Lopez. He also assists Abel Sanchez with a number of his fighters, like Gennady Golovkin, when called upon.

Now in his 70s, Lira moves around spritely inside the boxing ring as he tutors the many boxers, day in and day out. Defense and intelligence during a fight are his priorities but he preaches setting up opponents for the knockout wins. Brawlers are not preferred.

Diaz is a polished defensive fighter and less an offensive killer. But he’s finding the range for his power and speed. He has an abundance of speed and soon will be moved up the super bantamweight ladder.


Another super bantamweight racing up the ladder is Diego De La Hoya (7-0, 5 Kos), who opposes Ali Gonzalez (6-3) in a six round bout.

De La Hoya trains in Indio under the supervision of Joel Diaz, whose stable grows each year.

Diaz, a former contender from Coachella, now lives and trains fighters in Indio, including Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley, who he’s trained his entire professional career. He also trains Julio Diaz, Ireland’s Jamie Kavanaugh, former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz and current lightweight world champion Omar Figueroa.

Many consider Diaz one of the best trainers in the world. He’s convinced De La Hoya will be a world champion very soon.

De La Hoya, 20, has an abundance of speed, power and guts. The only negative on his ledger is that he’s not as tall as Oscar De La Hoya, doesn’t fight in a weight class where the big money lives. But his crackling attack style has been honed down a bit by Diaz. His aggression stems from his powerful left hook. He loves firing that hook but has been more selective lately as the talent level he faces improves. But he loves to attack.


East L.A.’s Julian Ramirez (12-0, 7 Kos) is another aggressive fighter in the featherweight division and another southpaw. He faces Pedro Melo (9-6-2) in an eight round contest.

Ramirez, 21, has height at 5’7” and some speed and has been fighting more intelligently. One of his better victories came against Derrick Wilson, a dangerous boxer/puncher with speed from Florida. It was a pivotal victory that showed Ramirez was capable of boxing smartly while still being in attack mode. His defense has improved immensely this year. Ramirez is managed by Joel De La Hoya, who has a good eye for talent. The older brother knows what separates the best from the rest when it comes to boxing. Ramirez can be one of those talents that others overlooked.

Texas fight card

In a Top Rank card on Saturday, another top tier prospect Oscar Valdez (12-0, 11 Kos) meets veteran Alberto Garza (26-8-1, 21 Kos) in an eight round featherweight match. The fight card takes place in San Antonio and will be televised on HBO Latino.

Valdez, in my opinion, is the closest in resemblance to the fighting style of Julio Cesar Chavez I’ve seen in 20 years. The former Mexican Olympian, class of 2012, has blitzed through opponents impressively. He’s managed by Frank Espinoza, who has an eye for talent, as his former fighters Israel Vazquez, Martin Castillo and Abner Mares attest.

This time Valdez, who trains in Carson, fights eight rounds. He’s captured the NABF junior featherweight and super featherweight titles. Valdez has strength, power and defense. He steps in the ring and simply mows down opponents while moving forward. He reminds me of Chavez more than Chavez’s own son.

All of these prospects are capable of winning a world title. But each one has a different time schedule. Take a look and determine yourself who will be grabbing one the soonest.