Diego Elizondo’s dream is kindled in an 8,000 square-foot gym at the Tazmanian Boxing Club in Carson City.
Among 14 amateurs in the club, Elizondo stands alone as the only professional fighter.
Inside the gym, family members help Elizondo through his regular routine. One of his three nephews holds a punching bag, bracing for each thunderous strike by the 20-year-old lightweight.
Once Elizondo enters the ring, he’s joined by father and Jose Elizondo, who works the mitts. Together, father and son go through various combinations, showcasing Diego’s lightning quick hands to go along with his nimble feet and cat-like reflexes.
The Tazmanian Boxing Club has become a second home for him, but Elizondo is eager to break out of his comfort zone. He returns to the ring for his fourth professional bout on Saturday, June 8, against Sergio Vega at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
“This place is like home to me,” he said. “I’m always here training with family, just waiting for my next match.”
A victory in this highly anticipated matchup can help put Elizondo’s talents on the map. Several promoters will be in attendance to potentially sign the young boxer.
“That’s exactly what I’m hoping for,” he said. “God willing, that will happen. If not, that’s OK — either way. I hope to get signed, that’s the ultimate goal to take that step forward in my career and put me in a better financial place.”
Cisco Rodriguez, owner of the boxing club, has seen Elizondo’s progression since he was 2 years old. With 136 amateur and 22 professional fights, Rodriguez knows the sweet science.
He believes Elizondo has the tools to build a boxing career.
“Diego has always shown an interest in boxing. … His strengths are his power and footwork. Like all boxers, there is a lot of room for improvement. He can improve his combinations and hand speed and using the entire ring. … He has the talent, dedication and heart to make it.”
Vega stands in Elizdono’s path to stardom. The Sacramento, California native is 2-0 and both fights ended in TKO. Vega, 25, is at 5-foot-7.
Both fighters are southpaws, but Elizondo has the height advantage at 5-foot-10 to complement plenty of reach to land long-range jabs and hooks. His physical traits will be used against the smaller-sized Vega.
“We’re going to have to take over the fight right away,” father Jose Elizondo said. “We’re going to tip the fight to how we want it to be. … I think (Diego) is the better fighter and we’re gonna box this guy. We have the height to do what we want and we’re not going to mess around.”
Elizondo is 2-0 with a four-round draw in his last appearance against Canton Miller on May 4, 2018. At the end of the second round, Miller landed a low blow at the bell. Many more would follow in the fourth round. The referee allowed Elizondo time to recover but did not take a point from Miller.
The young boxer has learned from the Miller’s pro-tactics.
“He definitely surprised me with that,” he said. “It was just a little bit different. It’s a different experience. … Even though it bugged me, it’s the adversity that taught me I have to deal with that.”
Despite his powerful left hook and nimble footwork, it’s Elizondo’s perseverance that sets him apart. He often fights with a chip on his shoulder coming from a smaller-sized town and gym.
Elizondo turns his edginess into motivation once he steps inside the ring. His fight against Vega is just stepping stone to reach his ultimate goal.
“I just use it to fuel me,” he said. “I’m going to treat this fight like any other one in my career.”
In the battle of the two left-handers, the matchup can’t come soon enough for older brother Chuey Elizondo, who has served as a sparring partner. He and Diego’s three nephews, two nieces and sister will be cheering him on ringside.
“We’ll all be there for him,” he said. “He’s grown a lot to where his punches have really started to hurt. He’s still my little brother, but he’s not my little brother anymore.”
— Isaiah Burrows
Nationally televised main event
WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (25-0, 20 knockouts) will seek is sixth title defense in the main event when he faces Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez (14-0, 7 KOs). The 12-round bout will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on ESPN, along with a 10-rounder between light heavyweights Sullivan Barrera (22-2, 14 KOs) and Michael Seals (22-2, 16 KOs).
The undercard features Stockton’s Gabriel Flores Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs) vs. Salvador Briceno (15-3, 9 KOs) from Guadalajara, Mexico.
The live boxing begins at 3:30 p.m. The local fighters might be the first to fight. Reno’s JJ Mariano makes his professional debut against Fresno’s William Flenoy in a four-round welterweight bout.
Mariano is a graduate of Reed High School and is a student for the University of Nevada, Reno, where he has competed for the school’s boxing team. He also has competed in Golden Gloves tournaments.
“I’ve been looking forward to fighting professionally for about a year now.” Mariano said in a press statement. “Being able to have your first pro fight in your hometown is something special.”
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Let’s Get It On Promotions and Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, tickets for this world championship event priced at $103, $68 and $43 (including facility fees) are on sale now and can be purchased via Ticketmaster.com or in person at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa gift shop.