By Miguel Maravilla
The time has come for South El Monte, California’s undefeated featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr (26-0, 14 KOs) as he will have his first shot at the title against WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (28-1, 17 KOs) of Capitol Heights, Maryland. Diaz squares off against Russell this Saturday at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, live on Showtime Championship Boxing.
“This is the moment and I feel god put this opportunity to fight Gary Russell Jr. in his hometown everything is falling into place,” Joseph Diaz Jr. told Fightnews.com®. “I’m 25, in my prime, and hungry. I’m truly ready. I won’t let no one down and I will give Gary Russell Jr his toughest fight.”
Having been the number one contender for the WBC featherweight title, Diaz and his team were adamant on securing a title shot.
“It wasn’t difficult to get this fight. We knew 10 months in advance that we would get this fight. They were playing mind games,” stated Diaz on securing his title shot.
Having completed a ten week camp at the Teamsters Boxing Gym in his hometown of South El Monte Diaz is ready as he trained with his father Joseph Diaz along with longtime respected trainer Ben Lira.
“Training camp is coming along good. I have trained hard for May 19th. The preparation has been the same as every fight. We had a ten week preparation and sparred nothing but lefties that are fast and elusive fighters we’re ready.”
Diaz is coming off a third round knockout over former WBC super bantamweight champion Victor Terrazas in February. His opponent the champion Gary Russell Jr., a 2008 U.S Olympian has been inactive for nearly a year as he last fought last May scoring a TKO over Oscar Escandon as he defended his WBC title for the second time since winning it over Jhonny Gonzalez back in March of 2015.
“Gary Russell is a very fast fighter that likes to throw a lot of combinations. We are ready for whatever he brings, but I think he will be on his bike. He will have ring rust come fight night. I see a lot of flaws, the body shots are where he has to defend because he has his hands so high, leaving his body open. So we’ll attack the body, break him down, physically and mentally,” Diaz said about Russell “I am not Oscar Escandon or Jhonny Gonzalez that just come forward. I have good footwork and fast hands. Gary Russell is underestimating me, I am an elite fighter.”
Going into hostile territory, Diaz will be fighting in Russell’s backyard in D.C just about 20 minutes south of Russell’s hometown of Capitol Heights.
“I would say I have more advantage than him. He has the crowd but I feel that the judges and none of that will matter. I have faith that the WBC will make sure I have a fair shot,” Diaz said. “He will have the fans booing me. It will be me and him in the ring. My only concern will be to adjust to him.”
Since turning pro following the 2012 London Olympics, Diaz has been on the proper path as his promoter Golden Boy along with his manager Ralph Heredia have been matching him well. Undefeated in his first 26 fights, Diaz has taken the proper steps and passed every test on his quest to a world title.
“We have covered all our bases and fought a lot of tough fighters. When I first turned pro, my manager, Oscar (De La Hoya) and I talked about my first ten fights. I think it was after my 15th fight, when I told them I was serious about becoming a world champion,” Diaz explained. “Of course, as a kid I wanted to be a champion. I looked up to Oscar, I wanted to fight on the big stage, on HBO, Showtime. Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, or Al Bernstein calling my fights. It’s finally here.”
“I feel Jo Jo has been so determined and confident. We know he has the opportunity to fight for something meaningful. The timing is right, I see a different Jo Jo and I am confident he will be victorious,” Diaz manager Ralph Heredia told Fightnews.com
Winning the world title nonetheless will be the biggest accomplishment in Diaz’s career. Since representing the U.S. in the Olympics, Diaz fought out his hometown of South El Monte as he looks to become the first boxing world champion in his town. Located about 15 miles East of downtown Los Angeles, it was in his hometown of South El Monte where “Jo Jo” began to box and first laced up a pair of gloves. After being bullied, Diaz was forced to enter boxing and the rest is history as he looks to bring the title home.
“The hype, energy, support, and good vibes that I have been getting from my community has been amazing. I would be the first boxer to be world champion and I am also the first Olympian. I want to show the youth here in South El Monte and everywhere that dreams do come true,” Diaz said. “I want to say that May 19th, it will be spectacular and it will be a very exciting fight. I have no doubt I will be victorious,” Diaz concluded.
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