By Keith Idec
Gary Russell Jr. is confident his fight against Joseph Diaz Jr. will be as easy as his fans’ commute to witness it.
Russell will defend his WBC featherweight title against Diaz on Saturday night at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. That venue is a short drive from Russell’s hometown of Capitol Heights, Maryland.
“It’s amazing to be fighting at home,” Russell said during a recent press conference at MGM National Harbor. “It’s cool to know that the people I see around all the time will be able to get in the car and drive 15 minutes to come watch this massacre. I can’t wait.”
The undefeated Diaz, the mandatory challenger for Russell’s title, isn’t intimidated by Russell’s tough talk or coming essentially to his opponent’s hometown for this 12-round, 126-pound championship match between American Olympians.
“It doesn’t affect me at all fighting in his hometown,” Diaz said. “I’m happy to fight in his backyard. He’s the champion and that’s what champions get to do.”
The 29-year-old Russell (28-1, 17 KOs) will make a second straight title defense in his home area. He’ll end what will be almost exactly a one-year layoff against Diaz because he hasn’t fought since he stopped Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) in the seventh round May 20 at MGM National Harbor.
The 25-year-old Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs) was willing to travel wherever necessary to get the title shot the Downey, California, native has dreamed about since he was a young amateur.
“It’s a dream come true to be fighting on this stage,” Diaz said. “Ever since I roomed with Errol Spence at the  Olympics [in London], we always promised each other that once we became pro we were going to fight all the elite athletes and the best champions. Gary Russell Jr. is the best at 126 pounds. I’m not scared to fight him and that’s what Errol Spence did, too. He beat Kell Brook in his hometown.”
Spence (23-0, 20 KOs), commonly considered one of the best boxers in the sport, traveled to Sheffield, England, and knocked out Brook in the 11th round to win the IBF welterweight title May 27.
Russell-Diaz will air as the opener of Showtime’s split-site doubleheader May 19. Quebec’s Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) will defend his WBC light heavyweight title against Sweden’s Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) in the main event at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.