LAS VEGAS — Featherweight contender Joseph Diaz Jr. expected to face Jorge Lara in a world title elimination fight in the co-feature of the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin middleweight championship bout on Saturday night. Then things suddenly changed.
Mexico’s Lara injured his back Tuesday at the gym, forcing him to withdraw from the bout, according to an email from his promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, to Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez.
Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz hustled to find a new opponent and, hours later, Lara (29-0-2, 21 KOs) was replaced by Rafael Rivera, who had been training for a fight next week.
So now Rivera will face Diaz (24-0, 13 KOs), in the title eliminator Saturday (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena. The winner will earn a mandatory shot at world titleholder Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs).
Golden Boy Promotions, whose officials suspected that Lara was way overweight, was awaiting a doctor’s note from Lara for proof of his injury. Meanwhile, Diaz, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, was gearing up for a new opponent.
“I don’t care who is in front of me,” the 24-year-old southpaw from South El Monte, California, said. “I’m leaving with a win on [Saturday]. After I have my hand raised in victory, I will be one fight away from realizing my dream of winning a world championship.”
Rivera (25-0-2, 16 KOs), 23, of Mexico, owns a decision win against former junior featherweight titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and is coming off a second-round knockout of Ruben Tamayo in June.
Rivera had previously been a possible opponent for Diaz on Saturday’s card before the fight went to Lara.
“Originally, I was hoping to get a shot at Jo Jo Diaz,” Rivera said. “When that didn’t pan out, I took another fight for next week. I have, therefore, been training and am in the best shape of my life. I am grateful that I have this last-minute chance, and there is no way I am letting this opportunity pass me by.”