After a near nine-month absence, professional boxing lightweight Diego Elizondo is hungry for another opportunity in the ring.
Carson City’s Elizondo faces undefeated lightweight Eric Puente from Vista, California on Tuesday, July 7 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand during the Top Rank Boxing Summer Series. The fight will be broadcasted live on ESPN.
Elizondo, 21, enters his sixth professional bout with a new focus and determination. He was tagged with his first professional loss in his last fight to Mike Sanchez by unanimous decision on Oct. 26 in Reno. Elizondo is 2-1-2 in five pro fights.
“I’m looking forward to going back at it,” he said. “I was waiting for an opportunity and suddenly I got one. It’s been quite some time, so it’s gonna be exciting. I’m anxious for another bout in the ring.”
Elizondo will go toe-to-toe against a familiar opponent. Puente, 20, sports a 2-0 pro record and won the 2016 National Youth Open Championship and was a member of Team USA. He won his last fight against Alejandro Lopez Huerta via unanimous decision on March 23.
The two fighters touched gloves as amateurs, with Puente getting the best of Elizondo in the final round. Elizondo may be the underdog, but he’s looking to return the favor in Las Vegas. He took the fight on three weeks notice and has been training tirelessly ever since.
“We fought before as amateurs. He beat me but it was a close fight,” he said. “I know he’s a pressure fighter who comes forward, so I need to work my angles and stick to the game plan.”
Standing at 5-foot-10, Elizondo said he matches up well against the 5-foot-8 Puente in the ring. The southpaw has nimble feet and cat-like reflexes to counter Puente’s aggressiveness. He is confident he can land several punches throughout the bout while keeping Puente out of his comfort zone.
“I feel like I can display my strengths in the ring at any given moment,” he said. “He may charge at me at times, but I trust myself to be patient and pick my spots to strike when the time seems right.”
Elizondo’s toughness was on display during the Sanchez fight. Sanchez set the tone for the first two rounds and knocked him down with a body blow in the third round.
Elizondo bounced back and landed a pair of combinations in the fourth round, but the judges ruled a unanimous decision in Sanchez’s favor. Despite the loss, the young boxer gained some self reflection in the ring.
“I learned a lot from that moment,” he said. “I learned that I can get knocked down and get back up. I learned I had some heart in the ring and dug deep. … I feel that I can’t leave it so close and have some more conditioning. I need that extra ounce to finish each round.”
Covid-19 has put all sports on hold as the world regains a sense of normalcy. The state of Nevada issued new health and social distancing measures, including mandatory face masks at all public gatherings.
When the fight arrives on July 7, the venue will be empty to make for a sparring environment. Without any screams or hollars, the only sounds may come from the fight itself. Elizondo is looking to take advantage of the silence.
“It depends what kind of fighter you are at the end of the day,” he said. “I believe that I do a lot better in a sparring session, I’m not really worried about the whole environment. I get to hear more of my dad (Jose Elizondo) telling me some adjustments, you may even hear the sound of harder punches.”
Elizondo is building a life outside the ring, as well. He and his wife, Veronica, recently bought a house. Together, they have a baby daughter, Violeta. At such a young age, Diego has built a happy and sustainable life for his family.
“We’ve got our own space and we’re blessed to be where we’re at,” he said. “I’m happy with life right now, it showed me there’s more outside of boxing.”
Elizondo will stay in his home state for his upcoming fight against Puente. It has become a frequent occurrence for family and friends in the Carson City area to cheer him on each fight.
The lightning-quick lightweight has built a reputation in his hometown. He’s put in countless hours of training over the years at the Tazmanian Boxing Club, an 8,000-square foot gym in Carson City.
Elizondo takes pride in representing his local ties each time he enters the ring. His upcoming bout has a tough opponent standing in the way, but don’t count him out just yet.
“It’s cool to know that people are gonna be watching from home in my city,” he said. “It gives me that motivation when I’m training. As an amateur, I always felt I fought better away from home, so I’m ready to fight the odds.”