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Julio Diaz gets back on track at ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights card

Former champion outlasts veteran contender in headlining fight

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GERMAN VILASENOR / MAXBOXING.COM

Julio Diaz, right, evades a punch from Herman Ngoudjo moments after landing one of his own Friday night in Primm at the Star of the Desert Arena. Diaz scored a unanimous-decision victory over Ngoudjo.

It was far from the greatest win of his career, but Julio Diaz appreciated the feeling of victory more than ever before Friday night at the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm.

Diaz, a former IBF lightweight world champion, won his first fight in two years with a unanimous decision over Herman Ngoudjo in the headlining bout of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights card.

“I felt like I walked in here with my head down coming off of two losses and people doubting me,” Diaz said. “Now, I can stand tall and fight even better. I regained my confidence.”

Sports books listed the 30-year-old Diaz (37-6, 27 KOs) as a slight underdog to Ngoudjo (17-4, 9 KOs) in the junior-welterweight bout, but as the fight progressed it became increasingly apparent that the line was incorrect.

Diaz had monstrous sixth and ninth rounds in the 10-round bout. In the ninth, he landed a combination of shots that sent Ngoudjo stumbling.

It looked like Diaz was on the verge of a knockout, but Ngoudjo regrouped to finish the fight strong.

“These are the kind of opponents I love beating,” Diaz said. “He was not a chump who came to lose. He was a fighter, a good fighter.”

Two of the scorecards gave Diaz a 97-93 victory, while the other tallied it as 99-91 win. Ngoudjo did not win a single round unanimously according to the judges, which is an accurate reflection of the fight.

While Diaz had his big moments, Ngoudjo never could land the momentum-shifting punch or dominate a round.

“He was supposed to be the toughest fighter in the ring, so I had to run and run to stay away from him,” Diaz said. “After the second round, I felt I was the superior fighter. I felt stronger and was pretty much doing what I wanted.”

Posters around the arena billed the card as “Mexican Mayhem.” That tagline ended up an omen.

In the only other televised fight, Diaz’s friend and fellow Mexican fighter Dominic Salcido scored a unanimous-decision victory over previously unbeaten Puerto Rican Guillermo Sanchez.

Two of the judges gave the junior-lightweight division victory to Salcido by the score of 77-75, while the other added up to 78-74 in the eight-round fight.

“Two fights, two wins,” Salcido said while celebrating Diaz’s victory. “It was a good night.”

And it was exactly what Diaz had hoped for after dropping three of his last five bouts. He was carried around the ring on the shoulders of his trainers after the scores were announced and swarmed by fans as he made his way to the dressing room.

Diaz had waited for those moments long enough.

“It’s fuel for the fire,” Diaz said. “It sparks me up and regains my confidence again. My next fight is going to be even better, because I will walk in with my chest high.”

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