Keith Thurman vs. Julio Diaz: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

Keith Thurman vs. Julio Diaz: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

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    Keith Thurman defends his WBA Interim Welterweight Championship on Saturday night, taking on veteran former world champion Julio Diaz at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif.

    Thurman is an undefeated power-punching prospect who has scored 20 of his 22 victories inside the distance. Most of those fights haven't gone beyond a couple of rounds, but he was impressive when Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto Karass took him rounds in his last two fights.

    Diaz is a two-time former lightweight world champion, but he's gone just 0-2-1 in his past three fights, dropping decisions to Amir Khan and Shawn Porter his last two times out. It would seem that his best days are behind him, but he's still got some pop, and anything can happen.

    Read on for your complete preview and prediction for Thurman vs. Diaz!

Tale of the Tape

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    All stats and information per Boxrec.com.

     Keith ThurmanJulio Diaz
    Record22-0, 20 KO40-9-1, 29 KO
    Age2534
    Height5'7.5"5'8"
    Weight145.75 (Last Fight)147 (Last Fight)
    Reach69"68"
    StanceOrthodoxOrthodox
    HometownClearwater, FloridaJiquilpan, Michoacan de Ocampo, Mexico
    Rounds Boxed78302
    Last FightTKO 9 Jesus Soto Karass (12/14/13)L UD 10 Shawn Porter (9/12/13)

     

Main Storylines

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    Eric Gay

    Thurman has the potential to be a truly special type of fighter. He has massive punching power, an exciting style and the personality that could turn him into a huge star if he continues to win impressively. The competition level has risen steadily over his last couple of fights, and he's shown an ability to break down and not just blow out a foe.

    This fight, however, seems to be a little bit of a step in the wrong direction. His opponent on Saturday night is a former lightweight world champion, but you'd be very hard pressed not to feel that his best days are well behind him.

    Thurman, rightly, enters this bout as a heavy favorite, but this seems to be the prototypical no-win situation for him. If he wins, he did what was expected. But if he loses, it would be a disaster.

    Diaz has become something of a gatekeeper in the last few years of his career. That may seem like a knock, but he's done well in the role and nearly upset a few well-laid plans.

    The 34-year-old two-time lightweight world champion was called in as an "opponent" for Shawn Porter back in late 2012, and he very nearly pulled the upset, holding “Showtime” to a split-decision draw. In his next fight, he knocked down Amir Khan in Round 4 but dropped a narrow decision.

    Porter, decisively, got the better of him in his last fight, and given his age and recent results, you'd have to figure that this is his last shot at boxing glory.

Strengths

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Thurman is definitely best known for his massive punching power, but he's got a few more tricks up his sleeve. He's got dynamite in his fists, for sure, but he's also a very capable boxer.

    A lot of times, when you see a young fighter rising through the ranks and knocking everyone out, you wonder if their great power is just masking other flaws in their game. That's not the case with Thurman.

    "One Time" has put a lot of those fears to rest in his most recent fights. He has a very good jab—which he uses to find range and set up his power punches—great stamina and superb boxing ability. Against both Chaves and Soto Karass, he faced opponents who he couldn't blow out of the ring early. Instead, he demonstrated an ability to be patient, break a foe down and close the show when opportunity knocked.

    Diaz likes to brawl. Throughout his career, he's shown an ability to do it—and do it well. Unfortunately for him, he might just be outgunned in this affair.

    The former 135-pound champion was a pretty big puncher in the lower weight divisions, but it's been years since he's resembled anything close to a world-class foe. That said, if he can get on the inside and uncork a couple of bombs of old, we could be in for an interesting night.

    Diaz is a fighter in every sense of the word. He's been counted out and left for dead more than his share of times, and yet, he keeps coming. He won’t go away. This is probably his last shot, and that's powerful motivation.

Weaknesses

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    Thurman hasn't shown much in the way of weaknesses through his first 22 professional bouts. He has good punching power, good boxing ability and seems equally comfortable being the boxer or the puncher in a bout.

    The one thing that we haven't seen, and likely won't in this fight either, is how he'd handle an opponent who is both able to handle his power and possesses significant pop of his own.

    Until we see him in there with somebody that meets both of those criteria—no easy task—there will remain that one lingering question.

    Diaz has a few flaws that will definitely hurt him in this contest. He's a bit of a plodder, without the type of hand speed or foot movement that would give some wrinkles to his offensive attack. 

    His chin is a bit of a concern—not what you want to hear when going in against one of the bigger power punchers in the game—and he's been knocked out five times in his nine career defeats, most recently in Round 3 by Kendall Holt in 2011. 

    Diaz has won just 4 of his 10 fights since 2009, and while he hung in there with both Khan and Porter, neither of them has the power that Thurman does.

Keith Thurman Will Win If...

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    Darren Abate

    Thurman is an overwhelming favorite in this fight and with good reason. His style seems to be perfectly suited to handle an opponent of Diaz's ilk, and as long as he doesn't show some glaring weakness we haven't seen before, he should win this fight.

    "One Time" is clearly the bigger, crisper puncher. He should use his jab to find range, open up Diaz's guard and then unleash hell on him when the opportunity arises.

    Diaz isn't a very hard target to find. He does have some good head movement, but his hand and foot speed aren't up to snuff. As long as Thurman is able to find the mark with his big shots, he will win this one.

    Thurman is the naturally bigger and stronger man. He should make every attempt to impose those strengths on his foe, who hasn't proven to be the most durable fighter around.

    But it all starts with the jab. Thurman needs to use it early and often, set up his shots and if he does, it could be an early night.

Julio Diaz Will Win If...

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    It would be a truly shocking result if Diaz found a way to win this fight. He just seems to be too far past his prime, and he's coming up against an opponent who is just now coming into his physical peak. 

    That's a dangerous mix for an aging fighter who isn't very durable.

    All that said, stranger things in boxing happen fairly often and usually when least expected.

    Diaz did very well against Khan and Porter—the latter looks even better now given how "Showtime" dominated Paulie Malignaggi this past Saturday—but neither of those guys had the advantages that Thurman possesses.

    The best chance of victory here would seem to be for Diaz to go in there with guns blazing and try to check Thurman's chin in hopes that he doesn't really have one.

    Thurman has faced some decent punchers—Soto Karass and Chaves—but nobody devastating. We don't know how he'll respond if he really gets clocked, and that would seem to be the best chance of an upset here—especially since Diaz doesn't have much of a chance of winning this boxing match.

    It's risky, sure, but it might be the only way.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Eric Gay

    It's a fool's bet to pick against Thurman in this fight. The question really shouldn't be whether or not he'll win, but how fast and how spectacular.

    Diaz fared well against Khan in his last fight, and even scored a knockdown. But he was in there with an opponent who fought cautiously because of his known chin issues, and who doesn't possess anything close to one-punch stopping power. 

    Thurman isn't cautious, he isn't nervous, and he has devastating punching power. Add that to the fact that he'll be facing an opponent who is undersized, hasn't beaten a world-class fighter in years and has been stopped five previous times, and you have the recipe for an impressive and devastating knockout victory.

    Diaz will try to make a fight out of it in the early rounds, but he'll get dropped in the first third of the bout. From that point on, he'll be wounded prey and Thurman will be the hunter.

    Thurman will drop Diaz several times, and either the referee or the corner will intercede to stop the fight in Round 6, handing the WBA interim welterweight champion an impressive, but largely meaningless, victory.

    Prediction: Thurman TKO 6 Diaz