UNDEFEATED featherweight and former U.S. Olympian Joseph “JoJo” Diaz, Jr. will fight for his first world championship against WBC title-holder Gary Russell, Jr. on Saturday, May 19 in a clash live on SHOWTIME from MGM National Harbor in Maryland.
Russell Jr. and Diaz Jr. have both had sensational professional and amateur careers, including representing the U.S. at two different Olympic Games – Russell in 2008 and Diaz in 2012. Russell is noted for having some of the fastest hands in boxing but will be tested by a young, hungry contender in his first world title fight.
“The featherweight division is one of the most talent laden in boxing and Gary Russell, Jr. is at the head of a class of terrific boxers at 126 pounds,” said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions. “Joseph Diaz Jr. is young, hungry and undefeated and he’s coming for the title and he’s going to have to beat Russell in front of his hometown crowd to take it. It has the makings of an instant classic. Boxing fans will be the real winners on May 19.”
“Golden Boy Promotions is dedicated to ensuring that the best fight the best,” said Oscar De La Hoya, CEO and Chairman of Golden Boy Promotions. “This exciting matchup between two of the best featherweights in the world is yet another example of that. Diaz Jr. has the skills, the speed and the power to become the best 126-pounder in the world, and on May 19 I have no doubts that he will defeat Russell Jr. and walk away champion.”
“SHOWTIME continues to deliver the most meaningful and action-packed fights in boxing, week after week,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports and Event Programming for SHOWTIME. “On May 19, we have two events that demand top-billing, with world champions facing their toughest challengers in an international split-site doubleheader. Gary Russell and JoJo Diaz will meet in the latest of what has become a de facto featherweight tournament this spring on SHOWTIME. Over the next two months, SHOWTIME will deliver four pivotal matchups featuring three world champions and seven of the consensus top-10 featherweights in the world.
The 29-year-old Russell (28-1, 17 KOs), who was born in Washington, D.C. and now lives in Capitol Heights, Maryland, will be defending his title before a hometown crowd. This will be Russell’s second straight fight at MGM National Harbor following his knock-out win over Oscar Escondon in his first title defense there on May 20, and second defense overall. It was his third straight knockout victory in a world title fight since dropping a majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko in his first world title shot in 2014.
Russell, who is trained by his father, Gary, Sr., is part of a boxing family. Two of his younger brothers, Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne, are currently unbeaten professionals, are also trained by their father and will be fighting on their older brother’s undercard on May 19.
“I don’t see this being a long night,” said Russell Jr. “If he gets reckless, it might end early. I don’t plan on going the distance with anyone I step in the ring with. I know he’s in for a rude awakening. I don’t feel as though he has the punching power, the hand speed or the ring IQ to do anything to me. At the end of the day he’ll have the opportunity to say he got in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell, Jr.”
“It will be an early birthday gift for my Dad. Last year I fought on his birthday, May 20. That’s pretty cool. I love fighting at the MGM. I love the convenience. I love that all my friends and fans, and the people who honk at me from their cars when I’m running can hop in their cars rather get on a plane to come and see me fight.”
Diaz Jr., who is also trained by his father, Joseph, Sr., was a two-time amateur national champion in the bantamweight division. He represented the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic games in London. Immediately after, Diaz Jr. signed with Golden Boy Promotions and began a stellar career that has earned him a spot at the pinnacle of the featherweight division.
“I’m happy to be fighting for my first world title against the best 126-pound world champion,” said Diaz Jr. “I’ll prove to everyone that I belong on that featherweight throne come May 19.”
“I will be the bigger man come fight night, and I will break him down physically and mentally. He just better give me the credit I deserve once I beat him, and not blame his inactivity for being a factor in his loss.”