By Keith Idec
A pair of American Olympians are headed to Canada for their featherweight title fight.
Joseph Diaz Jr. confirmed in a Tweet sent out Tuesday night that his WBC-mandated title shot against its 126-pound champion, Gary Russell Jr., has been scheduled for May 19 in Montreal. Showtime will televise Russell-Diaz as part of a two-bout broadcast headlined by WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs), who’ll defend his 175-pound championship against Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs).
Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez revealed Friday that he came to a verbal agreement with promoter Tom Brown, who represented Russell in negotiations on behalf of adviser Al Haymon, which avoided a purse bid. Golden Boy promotes Diaz.
Gomez mentioned May 19 as one of the possible dates for the Russell-Diaz fight to ringtv.com, which first reported Tuesday night that Russell-Diaz would be part of the Stevenson-Jack card.
Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza initially planned to televise a split-site doubleheader May 19. In addition to the Stevenson-Jack broadcast from Montreal, Showtime’s offering would’ve included a fight featuring WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The unbeaten Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) hadn’t secured an opponent for what was supposed to be a tune-up fight following more than a one-year layoff, largely caused by elbow surgery in April 2017. Thurman reportedly suffered a hand injury during training recently and the Barclays Center card was canceled.
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Russell (28-1, 17 KOs) will end a one-year layoff when he defends his title against the undefeated Diaz.
The Capitol Heights, Maryland, native has fought just twice since he stopped Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez (65-10, 54 KOs) in the fourth round to win the WBC 126-pound championship in March 2015. Russell, a 2008 Olympian, hasn’t fought since May 20, when he beat Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) by seventh-round technical knockout to make the second defense of his title.
The 25-year-old Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs), a 2012 Olympian from Downey, California, most recently knocked out Mexican veteran Victor Terrazas (38-5-2, 21 KOs) in the third round February 22 in Indio, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.