By Keith Idec
The featherweight title fight between Gary Russell Jr. and Joseph Diaz Jr. is still on for May 19.
It is not, however, headed to Montreal, as previously reported. According to an ESPN.com story Friday, Russell will make a mandatory defense of his WBC 126-pound championship against Diaz at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.
Russell is a native of nearby Capitol Heights, Maryland, and made the last defense of his title at MGM National Harbor nearly 11 months ago. Ringtv.com reported Tuesday that Russell-Diaz would take place May 19 at Bell Centre in Montreal, on the undercard of the Adonis Stevenson-Badou Jack light heavyweight title fight.
Instead, it appears as if Russell-Diaz will headline its own card and open Showtime’s split-site doubleheader. The site for the Stevenson-Jack fight hasn’t been officially announced because Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, is negotiating an agreement with Eleider Alvarez, the mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title, to allow the Stevenson-Jack fight to happen May 19.
The Colombian-born, Quebec-based Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) has been the No. 1 challenger for Stevenson’s title since November 2015. Sweden’s Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs), a former super middleweight and light heavyweight champ, is an optional opponent for Quebec’s Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs).
As for the 29-year-old Russell (28-1, 17 KOs), he’ll fight for the first time since stopping Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) in the seventh round May 20 at MGM National Harbor. The 2008 Olympian has boxed only twice since he beat Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez (65-10, 54 KOs) by fourth-round technical knockout to win the WBC featherweight title in March 2015.
The 25-year-old Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs), a 2012 Olympian from Downey, California, knocked out Mexican veteran Victor Terrazas (38-5-2, 21 KOs) in the third round of his most recent fight, February 22 in Indio, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.