By Steve Kim
Golden Boy Promotions announced on Friday morning that featherweight Joseph Diaz would be kicking off his 2018 campaign by facing veteran and former world champion Victor Terrazas on February 22nd at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino as part of their 'Golden Boy on ESPN' series.
Diaz (25-0, 13 KO's) is the number one rated challenger under the WBC and the plan is to go immediately after that belt-holder, Gary Russell Jr.
"Absolutely, absolutely," said Robert Diaz, the matchmaker for Golden Boy, to BoxingScene.com, "supposedly Gary Russell has one more voluntary (defense) coming up - which I would be very surprised if it happens since they haven't announced anything yet - but then he has to face 'JoJo'."
And unlike other fighters who have been in the mandatory position with the WBC, don't expect Diaz and his side to step-aside.
"The 'BC made it clear right before the holidays that fight has to happen and that 'JoJo is the mandatory so we're sure they're going to enforce it,'' said Diaz.
When contacted by BoxingScene.com about this situation, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman stated (via email): "The mandatory contender of the division is JoJo Diaz. Champion Gary Russell has a voluntary defense and then must meet the mandatory contender.''
The voluntary defense for Russell (28-1, 17 KOs) is slated for February, according to the WBC, but no further information has been revealed.
Russell has been very inactive for the last few years - averaging one fight 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.
Steve Kim is the news editor for BoxingScene.com.