By: Sean Crose
On August 11th, in Hollywood, the interim WBA world featherweight champ (more on that later) Jesus Rojas, 26-1-2, will defend his title against the 26-1 Joseph Diaz. This might seem problematic on the surface of things since Diaz calls California home. Rojas, however doesn’t mind. “I’ve had the opportunity to fight in places like Las Vegas and Las Angeles,” he tells me, “and I don’t feel any pressure fighting in the territory of Jospeh Diaz Junior.” In fact, Rojas has his own unique take on things. “The pressure,” he says, “is on Diaz.”
Fair enough. It’s Diaz, after all, who has to impress his home crowd. Not that Rojas doesn’t have anyone to impress himself. “I’m also a family man,” he says, adding “that’s been one of the keys” of his successful training camp. A native of Puerto Rico, Rojas is also aware of the island’s rich heritage in the fight game. “It’s an honor and it’s a joy,” he says of representing his home (especially the fact that he’s “the 59th champ” in Puerto Rico’s history) “and I feel really proud of it.” Yet, at the moment, Rojas knows must focus intently on his battle with Rios.
“We’ve definitely been making some changes,” he says of his training. Diaz, who lost his last fight, a title shot against the supremely gifted Gary Russel Jr., will be looking for redemption, a fact Rojas is well aware of. Still, Rojas feels it will be a different kind of fight than Diaz’ failed title attempt last May. Russel, Rojas points out, is a slick boxer, “whereas Jesus Rojas is a guy who comes to fight.” As training winds down, Rojas is ready for fireworks. “I think it’s going to be a war,” he says.
Although Diaz is the man before him, Rojas has plans for the future. “I’m focused on this fight,” he claims, “but I also want to be remembered and known as one of the best world champions and doing that means to fight the best.” One of the best that Rojas would like to face is the WBA super world featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz. Like many others, however, Rojas makes it clear that the WBA, which is widely regarded as a random and generally unprofessional organization, isn’t always in the business of ordering matches that would make sense.
“ I can’t really say that I’m going to get the opportunity,” to fight Santa Cruz, he tells me, even though both men hold WBA titles and fight at featherweight. “If we’re unable to make the fight with him,” Rojas claims, “we’re willing to fight any other word champion.”
“I feel sad,” he adds. “I started boxing for eleven years and I’ve been working very hard and training hard…because of that I’m actually very sad that things like that (a match with Santa Cruz) can’t take place.” Great though it is, boxing is a brutal sport – in more ways than one.