By Keith Idec
Joseph Diaz Jr. can’t wait to get his shot at Gary Russell Jr.
The undefeated Diaz, the mandatory challenger for Russell’s WBC featherweight title, expects to challenge Russell sometime in May or June. First, the 2012 American Olympian will keep busy Thursday night, when he’ll meet Mexico’s Victor Terrazas in a 10-round fight ESPN2 will televise from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California (11:30 p.m. ET).
The heavily favored Diaz (25-0, 13 KOs) isn’t overlooking Terrazas (38-4-2, 21 KOs), but the southpaw from Downey, California, knows facing Russell will provide the opportunity to prove himself against an elite-level opponent. Diaz would be an underdog against Russell, but he is confident he’ll knock off Russell (28-1, 17 KOs), who has lost only a majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs).
“I think he’s a very talented fighter,” Diaz told BoxingScene.com regarding Russell. “I truly believe that he has the quickest hands in boxing. But he does have a lot of flaws inside his game. I feel like I’m gonna be able to showcase to everybody the flaws that he does have and come out victorious. I know that he doesn’t fight often, and that probably will be his downfall, especially with a young fighter like me that’s staying active, that is hungry.”
Russell, 29, has fought just twice since stopping Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez (65-10, 54 KOs) in the fourth round to win the WBC 126-pound championship in March 2015. The southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, last fought May 20, the night he beat Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) by seventh-round technical knockout to make the second defense of his title.
“I feel like he needs to stay a little more active,” Diaz said. “He might not feel it, but it takes a toll in the long run – not only because you’re not fighting and getting that actual fight feel, but his age as well. He’s getting older and every year your body gets older, your reaction time and your speed gets slower. I feel like that’s all gonna pay dividends come fight night.”
Diaz, 25, also dismissed Russell’s taunts about Golden Boy Promotions protecting Diaz and not really wanting Diaz to fight him.
“I just think he’s covering his own bases, man,” Diaz said. “I know he didn’t wanna fight me in February. I know that he wants to wait it all the way out until May, until the WBC finalized the last date. So I just feel like he’s running his mouth just to cover his bases. Because at the end of the day, he knows I’ve been calling him out on Twitter, calling him out on Instagram.
“I’ve been mentioning his name a lot because I do wanna fight him. He knows I ain’t no punk and he knows that I do truly wanna fight him. I’m just waiting on his call and waiting on him to make the date because once he makes the date, it’s on. I’ll be ready to fight him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.