Gary Russell Jr. (left) will defend his WBC featherweight title against Joseph Diaz at the MGM National Harbor on May 19. (Rosie Cohe/Showtime)
Gary Russell Jr. (left) will defend his WBC featherweight title against Joseph Diaz at the MGM National Harbor on May 19. (Rosie Cohe/Showtime)

WBC featherweight champion and Capitol Heights, Maryland, native “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr. is coming home again.

Russell (28-1, 17 KOs) will defend his title against top contender Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz of Downey, California, on Saturday, May 19 at the MGM National Harbor casino resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

The two met face to face for the first time Tuesday as they officially announced the championship bout during a press conference at the MGM.

During the press conference, held at the Tap Sports Bar inside the casino, both men predicted victory.

“I’m one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet,” Russell said. “Speed, power, ring IQ, we can get ugly if we need to. I don’t plan on going 12 rounds. I’m not going the distance with anybody for the remainder of my career. Mark my words.”

Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs), coming off a third-round TKO victory over Victor Terrazas on Feb. 22, was similarly confident of his chances.

“It doesn’t affect me at all fighting in his hometown,” he said. “I’m happy to fight in his backyard. He’s the champion and that’s what champions get to do. I know what he’s capable of doing. He says I don’t have the boxing IQ or the power and speed that he has, but he’s going to be in for a rude awakening come fight night. He’s going to see that I have all the tools.”

Russell, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, will end a yearlong layoff against 2012 Olympian Diaz, the reigning NABF and NABO featherweight champion.

Russell has been relatively inactive following his lone career defeat to Vasyl Lomachenko in June 2014, competing just four times since. During that same time period, Diaz has fought 16 times.

Russell last fought on May 20, scoring a seventh-round TKO over Oscar Escandon at the MGM in just his second title defense. Diaz has had three bouts since then.

The fight will be televised live on Showtime as part of a two-site doubleheader. The other bout will be held in Toronto, where WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson will defend his title against two-division world champion Badou Jack.

The MGM undercard includes Russell’s undefeated brothers Antonio and Antuanne, as well as undefeated Clinton, Maryland, super lightweight Cobia “The Soldier” Breedy.

Tickets for the card at MGM National Harbor ( are on sale now.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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