LAS VEGAS – Joseph Diaz Jr., a 2012 U.S. Olympian from South El Monte, entered his fight Saturday against Manuel “Tino” Avila knowing that a victory could earn him his first major title shot as a professional because he is ranked No. 2 in the world at featherweight.
But since Avila was ranked No. 10, a victory did not figure to come easily. It wasn’t, but Diaz did more than enough to come away with a wide unanimous decision at T-Mobile Arena.
Diaz won by scores of 99-91, 99-91 and 100-90. The scores notwithstanding, Avila did get in his share of punches. He was just beaten to the punch by the quicker Diaz (24-0) much too often.
Avila, of Fairfield, suffered his first loss and is 22-1.
Diaz put a ribbon on his win late in the ninth round, when he unleashed a multi-punch combination, with several punches landing cleanly as the crowd got into a fight that was more of a chess match than anything.
Diaz and Avila tangled underneath the super middleweight main event between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Diaz was pleased.
“My plan going in was to feel him out and be smart,” he said. “Once I had him figured him out, I knew I could keep digging at him with my jab and do work. In the last few rounds, I kept throwing body shots to hurt him, which worked. Next up, I’m looking for a world-title shot.”
Styles make fights, and Avila intimated he didn’t like the way he match up with Diaz, a southpaw.
“My timing wasn’t there; I felt like this was a learning experience,” Avila said. “I need to learn how to pick up the pace in between rounds. Our styles were off and I felt like it could have been a better fight.”
Ronny Rios of Santa Ana is now 28-1 with 13 knockouts after he stopped Daniel Noriega of Mexico of the fourth round of their scheduled 10-round super bantamweight bout.
It was a good victory for Rios, but he wasn’t entirely pleased with his work.
“I’m obviously proud of the knockout win, but I think as a fighter we are always critical of our performances,” he said. “I need to clean up a lot of my mistakes, including leaning forward too much and loading up my punches. However, I’m ready for a title shot.”
Noriega falls to 30-11-1.
Houston’s Marlen Esparza, also a 2012 U.S. Olympian, was in her second pro fight when she took on Samantha Salazar of Dallas. When their four-round flyweight bout was over, Esparza (2-0) was the winner by three scores of 40-36.
Female boxers typically fight two-minute instead of three-minute rounds. But Esparza wants to do the latter, and that was allowed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“It’s great to make history being the first woman in Nevada to do three-minute rounds,” Esparza said. “I know it’s been done elsewhere, but tonight it feels really special doing it in this fight.
“I plan on staying at three minutes and not going back to two minutes, so I know we will need to be strategic about how I train and fight.”
Esparza won a bronze medal in the London Games.
Also, Ryan Garcia (9-0, 8 KOs) of Victorville stopped Tyrone Luckey (8-7-3) of Long Beach at 2:20 of the second round of their lightweight bout that was slated for six rounds.
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