By Keith Idec
Each of Gary Russell Jr.’s three WBC featherweight title fights have resulted in technical-knockout victories.
The confident champion will be disappointed if he doesn’t extend that streak against Joseph Diaz Jr. on Saturday night. Diaz promised to “walk down” Russell during their scheduled 12-round, 126-pound title bout, but Russell feels the undefeated Diaz won’t be able to take his power.
“ I feel as though that I am the best fighter in the division, hands down,” Russell told Showtime’s Steve Farhood following their weigh-in Friday afternoon. “Jo Jo Diaz just stated that. I feel as though I shouldn’t be going the distance with anyone in my division. If I do, I’ll be disappointed with myself. I don’t plan on going the distance. We ain’t going the distance. We ain’t going 12.”
Russell (28-1, 17 KOs), a southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, will end almost exactly a one-year layoff when he enters the ring with Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs), his mandatory challenger. His most recent title defense came last May 20, when Russell conquered Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) by seventh-round technical knockout at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The 2008 Olympian, who has lost only a majority decision to three-division champ Vasiliy Lomachenko, will return to MGM National Harbor to battle Diaz in a fight Showtime will broadcast as the opener of a split-site doubleheader. Once Russell-Diaz concludes, Showtime’s telecast will shift to Toronto, where WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) will defend his title against Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) in the main event at Air Canada Centre.
The 29-year-old Russell, meanwhile, is approximately a 3-1 favorite to defeat Diaz, a southpaw from Downey, California.
The 25-year-old Diaz, a 2012 Olympian, has been much more active than Russell. Diaz has fought three times over the past 12 months, most recently February 22, when he knocked out Mexican veteran Victor Terrazas (38-5-2, 21 KOs) in the third round with a body shot.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.