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Joseph Diaz: 'I will remind everyone why I deserve a world title shot'

Featherweight contender Joseph "JoJo" Diaz, right, defeated the tough late replacement Rafael Rivera in September. Al Bello/Getty Images

Undefeated featherweight Joseph "JoJo" Diaz appears to be a victim of WBC titleholder Gary Russell Jr.'s inactivity. Diaz won a unanimous 12-round decision over previously undefeated Rafael "Big Bang" Rivera on Sept. 16, 2017, in the final eliminator and in October was named Russell Jr.'s mandatory challenger.

Russell Jr. is a gifted boxer who won the title in March 2015 but has only fought twice since, most recently a seventh-round stoppage of Oscar Escandon in May 2017. Although Diaz's title shot is supposed to take place no later than May of this year, no date has been set and Russell Jr. will probably have a voluntary defense before taking on Diaz.

Rather than sit around gathering rust, Diaz is staying busy against Mexican veteran Victor "Vikingo" Terrazas in a schedule 10-round bout on Thursday at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.

Southpaw Diaz, 25, who represented the United States at the 2012 Olympics but failed to medal, turned pro in December 2012 and has built a 25-0, 13 KOs record. Other significant victories came against Manuel Avila, Horacio Garcia and Victor Proa.

Although he can be too tentative at times, Diaz is a skillful boxer and a good body puncher. He has gone 10 rounds or more on nine occasions and has never been knocked down as an amateur or professional.

"I look forward to making my 2018 debut, and what better way than by facing a tough, former world champion in Victor Terrazas?" said Diaz, who lives in South El Monte, California. "I will remind everyone why I deserve a world title shot by headlining this card in exciting fashion."

Terrazas (38-4-2, 21 KOs) won the vacant WBC junior featherweight title with a 12-round split decisions over Cristian Mijares in April 2013, but lost it to Leo Santa Cruz in his first defense. He has only fought three times since, going 1-1-1. In his most recent bout, Terrazas, who lives in Guadalajara, fought a four-round technical draw with Andoni Gago in Bilbao, Spain, where he suffered a fight-ending cut due to an accidental head-butt.

"I started training for this fight right after my last fight in December," Terrazas said. "I train at the Oscar 'Chololo' Larios gym in Guadalajara. I've been sparring with Jorge 'Pilon' Lara, Jorge Castro and a couple of guys from L.A."

The 35-year-old Terrazas' most impressive performance came in September 2011, when he won a unanimous decision over three-division former titleholder Fernando Montiel.

"JoJo Diaz is a good fighter, but I'm going to give him a good challenge," Terrazas said. "It's complicated to fight a southpaw, but I'm sparring with lefties to get ready for it. It's going to be a battle, but I'm training very hard so I will be victorious. I want to be back at the top level in boxing."

In the co-feature, touted prospect Vergil Ortiz (8-0, 8 KOs) takes on Jesus "Carambolas" Alvarez (15-3, 11 KOs) in a junior welterweight bout scheduled for eight rounds.

The 19-year-old Ortiz Jr., from Grand Prairie, Texas, is a good puncher with an aggressive, crowd-pleasing style. Although all of his pro fights have ended inside the scheduled distance, he had the stamina to spar 10 consecutive rounds with murderous-punching Lucas Matthysse when the Argentinian contender was prepping for Tewa Kiram, who he knocked out in the eighth round on January 27.

"This kid has big goals in life," said Ortiz's trainer, Joel Diaz. "He's been a very good fighter since the amateurs, and his father has always been by his side, making sure that he trains properly. He's one of those kids that doesn't need anybody whipping him on the back to work. He's very disciplined -- he does it himself. I think he's going to become one of the top fighters in the sport. He has all of the qualities."

At this stage of his career, Ortiz is being carefully matched, but five of his opponents have had winning records, as does the 25-year-old Alvarez.

"I like to fight inside, but I can also fight outside. I can counter if I want to. I can bang and I'm not afraid to go to war," Ortiz said. "But for the most part, I adjust to how my opponent fights. I don't always fight one way, because if you fight one way, someone is going to beat you."

Alvarez, from Los Mochis, Mexico, got off to a great start after turning pro in August 2009, winning his first 15 fights. But he has lost his three most recent bouts, all by knockout, and it would not be much of a surprise if Ortiz does likewise.