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Joseph Diaz Jr. starts, finishes strong in first-round boxing win

July 28, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Joseph Diaz Jr., right, is declared the winner of the opening match of the Olympic boxing competition after dominating Ukraine's Pavlo Ishchenko.
Joseph Diaz Jr., right, is declared the winner of the opening match of the… (Ivan Sekretarev / Associated…)

LONDON — El Monte teenager Joseph Diaz Jr. threw the first punch of the Olympic boxing tournament Saturday. Then he notched the first win, pounding his way to a dominating 19-9 victory over Pavlo Ishchenko of Ukraine in a bantamweight opener.

After Friday's draw Diaz said he went to his laptop and studied YouTube video of Ishchenko, the son of a boxing coach and a world championship medalist.

"I knew he had a very strong hook," Diaz said. "I knew that he was going to be really strong, really alert. His punches felt really hard. But I knew that I was in really great shape."

Diaz, a southpaw, took control of the bout from the bell, connecting with a good left hook a minute into the first round. A minute later he appeared to slip and briefly went to a knee. But that was about the only trouble he encountered as Ischenko had no answer for Diaz's left.

The 19-year-old won the first round 4-3, and was ahead 9-6 after two before completely dominating an active third round.

"I felt like he got a little tired and I was just getting started," Diaz said.

Diaz will have to be even sharper for his next bout Wednesday against top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba, a former handball and track athlete who beat Diaz in the world championships.

"I've fought him already and I'll have a different game plan," Diaz said of the 21-year-old Alvarez, the world and Pan American Games champion who had a first-round bye. "This time around I'm going to give him a good fight."

For Diaz, the honor of fighting — and winning — the first bout of the London Games on the first full afternoon of Olympic competition was a special thrill.

"The environment was crazy. It felt great just being in there," Diaz said. "I just realized that this guy's human just like me. He sweats. He bleeds. He's nervous just like me."

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