Diaz to move up a weight challenge

JoJo Diaz didn’t plan on fighting as a featherweight for a while. But the undefeated super bantamweight and 2012 U.S. Olympian will get a look into his future when he meets Ramiro Robles in a 10-round bout tonight at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Diaz (10-0, seven knockouts) initially was going to fight at 122 pounds. But after a long search to find an opponent, Robles (11-1-1, six KOs) agreed last weekend to take the fight, and it was determined it would be at 126 pounds.

“I’m ready,” said Diaz, a southpaw from El Monte, Calif., who will be fighting 10 rounds and at a higher weight class for the first time. “I’ve trained for the fight going the distance. He’s a good fighter, and he’s hungry, just like I am. It’s a good test for me.”

Diaz was tested in his last fight, a six-rounder against Luis Maldonado on April 25. Diaz won a unanimous decision, but said the fight was tougher than it was scored.

“He was a little sneaky,” Diaz said. “I tried to close the deal, but he was tough. It was a good experience for me, though. You have to learn to deal with different styles in the pros. I’m always learning something new every time I fight.”

Diaz said the transition from amateur to pro was easy because he wants to hit hard and the pro style suits him naturally.

“I like to bang inside, and it’s hard to do that in the amateurs,” he said. “In the amateurs, there’s a lot of pitty-pat punches, and you’re just trying to rack up points. In the pros, there’s a lot more involved. There’s more rounds. You can take your time and not rush. I’m throwing more quality punches, and I’m much more composed.”

Diaz said he had a great experience at the 2012 Olympics in London, even though he didn’t medal.

“It was amazing,” he said. “The people. Fighting in the arena, which was sold out. The athletes in the Olympic Village. They were so focused.

“The only regret was I didn’t march in the Opening Ceremonies because I had to fight the next day and I wanted to save my legs.”

He turned pro shortly after the Olympics and made his debut Dec. 15, 2012, with a four-round unanimous decision, then fought seven times in 2013. Tonight will be his third fight in 2014, and he wants to fight four or five more times this year.

“I want to keep busy,” he said. “I’m always in the gym, and as long as I’m healthy, why not fight?”

In the 10-round main event, veteran junior middleweight Alfonso Gomez (23-6-2, 12 KOs) will face Ed Parades (35-3-1, 23 KOs).

The first bell for the six-bout card is scheduled for 5 p.m. Fox Sports 1 will televise the final three fights, beginning at 7.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.