WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) will make a voluntary defense of his world title on a date in February, according to World Boxing Council President Maurcio Sulaiman.
However, the sanctioning body's leader states that Russell would then have to make a mandatory defense against undefeated challenger Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz (25-0, 13 KOs).
"Champion Gary Russell will defend his title in February, and then make his mandatory defense against JoJo Diaz," Sulaiman said.
Russell has been very inactive for the last few years.
After fighting three times in 2014, he's only seen action once a year in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In March of 2015, Russell easily knocked out Mexican veteran Jhonny Gonzalez to capture the WBC featherweight title.
He came back ten months later in April 2016, to easily demolish Patrick Hyland in the second round of a voluntary defense.
And then he didn't fight again until thirteen months later, when he secured a seven round stoppage over mandatory challenger Oscar Escandon in May 2017.
Diaz on the other hand, has been very active. He fought five times in 2015, four times in 2016 and twice in 2017.
The two appearances last year were part of major pay-per-views. He won a ten round decision on Cinco De Mayo weekend over Manuel Avila as part of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Diaz was back at T-Mobile on September 16, when he dominated Rafael Rivera over twelve rounds as part of the Canelo vs. Gennady Golovkin.
A bout between Russell and Diaz will be interesting, because of their promotional ties and network alliances. Diaz is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and fights on HBO, while Russell is advised by Al Haymon and fights on Showtime. Golden Boy and Haymon have done very little business with each other since parting ways from a long relationship in early 2015.
If the WBC issues an order and the two sides are unable to reach an agreement, then a purse bid will settle the matter.