Editorials

Gary Russell Jr. Returns to The Harbor to Defend His Crown

Russell vs. Diaz

On Saturday, May 19, 2018 live on Showtime from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, WBC Featherweight world champion Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) and unbeaten No. 1 contender Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (26-0, 14 KOs) go head-to-head in a scheduled 12-round championship showdown.

The Russell Jr. vs. Diaz Jr. fight is part of a split-siteShowtime Championship Boxing telecast that will feature WBC Light Heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson defending his title against two-division world champion Badou Jack in a main event from Toronto presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Back in May of 2017, Russell Jr. easily dispensed of Oscar Escandon via TKO in Round 7 at the very same venue where he’ll take on Diaz.

Russell Jr. has held the WBC crown since blasting Jhonny Gonzalez via fourth-round TKO in March of 2015. But since then, Russell Jr. has only fought twice.

Saturday will be the Capitol Heights native’s first fight in 364 days–a significant layoff for any fighter, even the uber-talented Russell Jr.

While Russell Jr. has stated on multiple occasions that the primary problem is getting the other champions in the ring with him, he also seems to be planning his exit from the fight game in the not-too-distant future.

“I’m at the point of my career where I have maybe six more fights in me,” said Russell Jr. during the kick-off press conference. “We want to maximize everything. We want to maximize our revenue and it’s been irritating because a lot of the champions don’t want to get in the ring with me.”

Diaz Jr. has been calling for this chance for quite some time, but while the California native is eager to get his crack at Russell Jr., he may be biting off more than he can chew.

Regardless of the outcome, the good thing about Saturday’s matchup is that Diaz Jr. is a young-and-talented fighter who should be able to put up a better fight than Russell Jr.’s two previous victims–Patrick Hyland and the aforementioned Escandon who each folded rather easily.

And what about pound-for-pound stud Vasiliy Lomachenko, who only last week moved up to Lightweight and stopped Jorge Linares via 10th-round knockout?

Russell Jr. has not forgotten about his lone professional loss at the hands of Lomachenko, and before he hangs up the gloves, Russell Jr. would like a shot at redemption.

“My last fight will be against [Vasiliy] Lomachenko,” said Russell Jr. confidently. “I want to conclude my career with breaking my foot off of him. That will be the conclusion of it. I’m willing to wait, though. Right now, we’re good.”

First things first, though. Russell Jr. takes on a young-and-hungry contender Saturday night live on Showtime.

 

Round By Round Boxing will have up-to-the-minute round-by-round fight-card results from the MGM National Harbor. Click here to follow our results page and download the mobile app for breaking news and fight-night results.

Header photo by Rosie Cohe/Showtime

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