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Diego Pacheco talks about his potential, “man strength,” and the path to major fights

The 20-year-old super middleweight spoke to Bad Left Hook in advance of an October 16th fight on DAZN.

Juan Francisco Estrada v Carlos Cuadras - WBC Super-Flyweight Championship Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images
John Hansen joined Bad Left Hook as a staff writer in 2021 and co-hosts the "Prophets of Goom" podcast.

Diego Pacheco expects to fight for a world title by the time he’s 22 years old. But, he’s also trying to make sure he doesn’t rush things.

For most boxers, those two statements would be impossible to reconcile. For Pacheco (12-0, 9 KO), the 20 year old super middleweight prospect that’s building his case for full-on contender status? Somehow, it makes sense.

Scott Christ wrote a prospect profile on Pacheco last October. Since then, Pacheco has won three more fights, two of them by stoppage, and wrapped up his teenage years. He’ll step in the ring yet again on October 16th, when he takes on undefeated Brazilian Lucas de Abreu (12-0, 11 KO) as part of the undercard for Mikey Garcia vs. Sandor Martin on DAZN.

Pacheco took a break from training to speak with Bad Left Hook about his busy fight schedule, his future at super middleweight, and the challenges he still needs to face to make the most of his potential as a boxer.

BAD LEFT HOOK: You’re 20 years old now and you’ve got a dozen pro fights under your belt. You’re not new at this any more, but you’re still very young and you’re nowhere near the potential that you obviously have. What are the fights you’re taking now preparing you for down the line?

DIEGO PACHECO: I’m taking fights that I know are going to help me in the long run. That I know are going to benefit my career and development. My goal is to fight the very best in the business. I know that I won’t get there and I’m not gonna learn by fighting bums and guys who aren’t going to give me a challenge. So, I’m looking to challenge myself a little bit. But, at the same time? Not to rush too much. I’m still 20 years old. I’m not near my full potential or my man strength. So, it’s a balance, you know?

You can generally tell when a young fighter is being fed the sort of opponents that just build up a record, and when they’re really being developed against people that will challenge them to hopefully learn and grow into something special. As a teenager facing matchups like the Gomez fight or the Riojas fight, it’s pretty clear that you’re on that second path. What do challenges like that teach you in the early stages of your career?

Well, in the Riojas fight, I was on a knockout streak. And that guy was really tough. I hit him with crazy shots, and he took them all and kept coming forward. So, that showed me that not everyone is gonna get laid out in the first round. These guys are here to win as well.

With Gomez, that’s another guy who was a tough fighter in there to win. He believed that he could beat me. So, these are guys who are challenging me and pushing me to really show what I have. I have to be on my ‘A game’ against guys with that toughness.

What is that Plan B for you? You obviously have a lot of power, and that’s done the job for you in most of your fights. Now, one of the things you’re tested by as your team develops you is: How do you deal with the guys who aren’t just going to fall down in the face of that power? So, where do you go? What’s the next level of your approach to fighting professionals that show you that sort of stamina or that sort of chin?

Just using my boxing! I feel like I’m an excellent boxer. Before the pros, I would win out-boxing everyone with my height and my reach. I’m 6’4”, I have really long arms, and fighting at the end of my punches had always been successful for me.

At the beginning of my pro career, it just happened that I was knocking everyone out with the same style I was fighting. But, these recent opponents have been tougher. So, using my boxing skills and putting a boxing lesson on guys.

Juan Francisco Estrada v Carlos Cuadras - WBC Super-Flyweight Championship Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

You’re a very, very active fighter, especially pre-pandemic. For a while, it seemed like you showed up on DAZN shows more often than Eddie Hearn. Is staying busy a goal of yours? Or, is it just you taking the opportunities that come to you?

Honestly, it’s just me staying in the gym. After every fight, I would be back at the gym and back into training. So, every time they offered a fight? I was just like, ‘I’m ready! Let’s do it!’ So, that’s where that activity came from. Matchroom presenting me with these opportunities and me being ready to take them on.

During the pandemic, things really slowed down. But, I feel like it helped me a bit, you know? Because when I was doing all of these fights, I really didn’t have time to stop and think. When the pandemic happened and paused things a bit, I had time to think about my fights, see my mistakes, and really just work on the little things I couldn’t work on while being in camp for all of these fights.

You can’t do that when you only have three weeks off between fights?

Exactly! It’s just sparring, maybe studying an opponent to figure out what I’m going to do against him. I don’t even have time to get stronger, or work on anything beyond that.

Young boxers sometimes struggle a bit the first time they fight on a big stage. But, you’ve been on the undercard of both Joshua-Ruiz fights, a Canelo fight… You’ve already been in big arenas. Does that experience give you any advantages over other fighters your age?

Yeah, definitely. On the second Joshua-Ruiz fight, I was actually a swing bout. So, I was lucky enough to go right before Anthony Joshua. That was the first time I was thinking, “Damn, this stadium is super packed.” It was crazy, but I handled it well. I got the knockout!

I remember after that fight, I was talking to one of the guys from Matchroom UK. He was telling me about how Oscar De La Hoya and other great fighters like him started their career fighting on big stages. So, when they got to their big main event fights, it was nothing new to them. They were used to it already. So, yeah, I feel like that’s a great advantage to me, being able to showcase on those biggest shows.

What’s your walk-around weight? How much are you usually cutting to hit 168, and do you see yourself at the weight long-term?

Honestly? I was supposed to fight back on the 18th. So for weeks already, I’ve been at 170. My body is comfortable there. I’ve just been riding at 170, watching what I eat, but eating normally and not really starving myself. Just walking around at 170, 171... And honestly, I feel like I could make 160. So, I don’t have to force myself to make it. I’m comfortable at 168, and I feel strong.

You’ve posted some pictures of you working out with David Benavidez. What’s it like training and preparing with another young, talented guy in your weight class? Is it any different preparing with a guy you could be in a ring against somewhere down the line?

We’re actually really good friends! The first time he brought me into his camp was last year in August. I was staying with him at his house in Seattle for six weeks. And we talked about it, that we could potentially, down the line, fight each other.

He was actually thanking me for coming down there. Because he said most guys in the same weight class, they don’t want to spar. They know they’re eventually going to fight each other. But, it is what it is. We’re here for the same objectives. And when it does happen? Let the best man win!

You’ve said in other interviews that you hope to be ready to fight for a title in 2 or 3 years, around age 22. What else do you see yourself needing to learn or experience to get you ready for that level?

Good question... [short pause]

I’d say, getting some of the experiences in the ring, like how I haven’t gone more than 8 rounds yet. Maybe fighting the guys who are former champions or who have a lot of experience in world title fights or big fights. Maybe get some experience with guys like that in the near future. That’s what’s going to really get me ready for those world title fights when they do come.

Anything you want people to know about your fight against Lucas de Abreu on October 16th?

Just that it’s going to be a great fight. Two undefeated guys, going at it. I know he’s going to come ready to secure his “0”. But... He’s not better than me. Sorry, Lucas!

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