Mexican contender Iran “MagnifiKO” Diaz will challenge for the WBC Super Flyweight World Championship when he faces Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in the historic boxing main event of ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES in Bangkok on Saturday, 6 October.
While he understands he heads into the bout as the underdog, facing a seasoned world champion in his own backyard, the 28-year-old believes he has the tools to come through the biggest test of his career victorious.
His journey to the top of the boxing world – and the bright lights of ONE Championship – started in the city of Obregón in northwestern Mexico. His childhood was a happy one, and he has fond memories of his time growing up in the Sonora state.
“Growing up in Sonora is difficult, but it makes you value things,” he explains.
“My childhood was very beautiful because my mother gave me everything she could – my dad as well, and my brothers have supported me a lot.”
Despite this, Diaz struggled to find a constructive use of his time growing up, and it resulted in him hanging out on the streets, playing pranks and landing himself in trouble.
“As a child, I was too lazy,” he explains.
“I grew up with, as they say, ‘the cholos’ – my brothers.”
After an invitation from a neighbour, he took part in organised fights on the streets, and his determination and never-say-die approach were clear to see.
However, the environment was far from safe, and another neighbour took it upon themselves to intervene and put Diaz on a safer path.
“One day, a neighbour of mine named Fernando Felix, he took out a pair of gloves and showed them to me, and he said, ‘Do you want to put them on?’” he recalls.
“‘Of course, come on, I’ll wear them,’ I said. So I put them on, and from that moment I’ve got the love for boxing.”
Diaz may have felt a strong connection with the “sweet science”, but his mother wasn’t so keen.
“It’s something my mom never liked,” he confesses.
“When she saw me with my gloves on, she would reprimand me, and the person who had put them on me.”
Despite his mother’s misgivings, Diaz was determined to learn more about boxing, and joined Víctor el Chino Barrón’s gym in Obregón to start his boxing journey.
Had that neighbour not taken him aside and offered him the chance to try on his gloves, Diaz may have ended up going down a very different path.
“Vandalism, fighting on the streets, behaving badly – we broke some windows of the patrol cars of the cops. We threw rocks at them, and that’s what led me to be locked up in the tutelary centre for minors.
“If I had not been guided by boxing, if I had not said, ‘I’m going to practice this beautiful sport,’ then I would not have gotten here. I would have been in jail or dead.”
After cutting his teeth in the amateurs, Diaz turned pro in 2008 and earned a draw on his debut as an 18-year-old.
After his first win in August 2008, he went on a superb run of form as he stayed unbeaten for the next seven years before losing out to future WBC Flyweight World Champion Juan Hernandez Navarrete in March 2015.
But Diaz bounced back superbly, knocking out Ricardo Armenta in October 2015, then defeating Alejandro Morales to win the WBC Latino Super Flyweight Title.
He moved up to defeat former WBC Flyweight World Champion Hernán Márquez and former WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Luis Concepción en route to a title shot against Srisaket on 6 October.
A victory would represent a dream for the Mexican, who has battled his way to the top.
“This is what makes me get up every day,” he says.
“That’s my dream, and I’m going to work for it. I will do the impossible to be the World Champion.”