By Keith Idec
Gary Russell Jr. wants to fight Joseph Diaz Jr.
The WBC featherweight champion isn’t so sure the feeling is mutual. Russell questioned Tuesday night whether Diaz’s handlers at Golden Boy Promotions will allow the undefeated Diaz to participate in the mandatory title fight he has earned.
“The WBC already sanctioned the mandatory challenger, Jo Jo Diaz,” Russell said during a ringside interview televised by FS1. “I’m curious if Golden Boy and them is really willing to put him in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell Jr.”
Like Russell, Diaz is a left-handed former American Olympian. The 24-year-old Diaz (25-0, 13 KOs), of Downey, California, most recently beat Mexico’s Rafael Rivera (25-1-2, 16 KOs, 1 NC) by unanimous decision in their 12-round fight on the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin undercard September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old Russell (28-1, 17 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, stopped Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) in the seventh round of his last fight, May 20 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Russell has fought just twice in the past 2½ years, though, and acknowledged a need to fight more often when he was interviewed during a “Toe-To-Toe Tuesdays” telecast from St. Petersburg, Florida.
“There’s a lot of people in the division that’s very scared and afraid to step in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell Jr.,” Russell said. “We’re definitely planning on staying a little more active [next] year. We wanna get another bout in sometime in February and we wanna go back again in May.”
Beyond making his mandatory defense against Diaz, Russell also said he wants to face current and former world champions considered among the elite featherweights in boxing.
“Anybody that’s in the featherweight division – Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton – it doesn’t matter,” Russell said. “You can hear people in the background, yelling it. Don’t be afraid. It’s time to make it happen. Let’s get it.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.