The WBC World Featherweight Champion explains his inactivity, and desire to face fellow world champion and amateur rival Leo Santa Cruz or move up in weight to tackle Gervonta Davis.
Russell (29-1, 17 KOs) will be making the fourth defense of his WBC World Featherweight title versus Spain’s Kiko Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KOs) on Saturday, May 18, at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center. The bout will be the co-feature to WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder versus mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale, live on Showtime (9:00p.m. ET/6:00p.m. PT).
Russell, 30, plans to steal the show. Beyond that, he craves unification versus WBA counterpart Santa Cruz. If Russell is unable to secure that bout, he aims to move up in weight for an all-Maryland showdown versus fellow southpaw and two-time champion Davis.
If not, Russell says he’ll focus on his family and assist his father and trainer, Gary Sr., with the careers of his unbeaten siblings, Antonio and Antuanne, both of whom will appear on the Barclays’ undercard.
Are you the world’s best 126-pounder?
I feel I’m the best. I just want to be able to prove it. Everyone in my division has stated that they feel I’m the best. Carl Frampton made the statement saying he feels that I’m the best fighter in the division.
Abner Mares made the statement on Inside PBC Boxing that he feels the reason why Leo Santa Cruz won’t fight me is that he knows I’m the best fighter.
Is there pressure to look sensational against Kiko Martinez given he has been stopped by Santa Cruz and Frampton?
“There’s no pressure at all. He is a rugged fighter and we are by no means looking beyond him.
We take no one lightly and we push ourselves to the limit every single day. My skillset will make us victorious, point blank, period. I don’t think anybody in the featherweight division, or, in the weight class above can do anything with me if I’m 100 percent.
What will it take for Russell-Santa Cruz to happen?
I’m only staying at 126 for Leo Santa Cruz. I have a wife and children. If they keep playing these games, I’m going to pass the torch off to my little brothers. I’m starting to get frustrated.
If fear is stopping these guys from getting into the ring, then let greed be the reason why they step into the ring. We can generate some real revenue for ourselves, for our families and our loved ones.
I’m ready to make it happen with Leo Santa Cruz.
Will any big fight happen if you defeat Kiko Martinez?
I don’t know. But I might say, “enough is enough,” throw in the towel and wash my hands of the sport.
I wanted Santa Cruz. I wanted Mares before he lost to Jhonny Gonzalez and I knocked out Gonzalez for the title. I wanted Frampton, but Frampton didn’t wanna fight me. I wanted Josh Warrington.
But Warrington just did an interview where they asked him about fighting me and he said, “We’re gonna leave Gary alone.”
I want Gervonta “Tank” Davis, and I’m planning on moving up in weight. If I have to fight [WBC 130-pound world champion] Miguel Berchelt to get Davis, then I’ll do that.
Has Santa Cruz, Davis or anyone else called you out?
Who do you see in the sport of boxing saying, “Oh, I wanna fight Gary Russell Jr?” You don’t hear that from none of the other champions. They’re talking about fighting each other and everybody else. Now, why is that?
They call me “The Boogeyman” of my division. I’m one of the most dangerous guys in the sport. Nobody wants to see me. If they do, my name is only whispered here and there. You don’t see nobody calling me out. They don’t wanna fight me, and I’m getting to the point where I’m getting tired of it.
“ They don’t wanna fight me, and I’m getting to the point where I’m getting tired of it. ” WBC World Featherweight Champion - Gary Russell Jr.
Will you call it a career if you don’t get Santa Cruz or Davis after Martinez?
If I don’t get one of the two of them, then, yes, that’s very possible. I honestly don’t know if Leo or Gervonta is willing to take the fight. But if either of them does take the fight, then I’ll definitely take it. Let’s just make it happen.
But if not, I’ve dedicated my entire life to boxing and given this sport everything that I have since I was maybe three-years-old. I’m 30 now. I represented my country in the Olympics, won every amateur tournament that there is to win.
Why do you believe you’re feared?
I’m intelligent and I haven’t cut any corners. But I’m kind of in between a rock and a hard place to a certain extent unless I can move up and start meeting some of these guys at catch weights and stuff. If they wanna do that, I’ll relinquish my title and go for it.
Are you frustrated that Martinez represents your first fight this year—and your fifth since 2015?
Of course, it’s frustrating. I’ve been a champion for going on five years, meaning that I’m one of the longest-reigning champions today. But I’ve been trying to compete against any of these champions, and none of them are trying to fight me.
The fans might be like, “Well, he only fights once per year” but they don’t really understand the reason why. None of these other fighters and champions wanna fight me.
I’ve been asking for the Santa Cruz fight for I don’t know how long, and I’m about to go up in weight. If I move up in weight, I’m gonna fight Gervonta.
Do you think Santa Cruz is ducking you?
I don’t think it’s just him. I think it’s his coach and his team...I just don’t think they feel as though it’s in their best interest or his career to compete against Mr. Gary Russell Jr.
What do you recall about defeating Santa Cruz as an amateur?
I believe it was in the Olympic qualifiers of 2006 or 2007. I did what I wanted to with Santa Cruz. He’s a flat-footed fighter who comes straight forward. He’s a “Rock Em-Sock Em” robot who can’t do nothing with me, and that’s the reason why they’re keeping him away from me.
What happens against Santa Cruz in the pros?
If I fight Leo now, I knock him out. I don’t know what round, but it could be early. Leo is a reckless fighter who throws punches just because someone is closing the distance on him.
If you do that against an in-shape, sharp, mentally prepared Mr. Gary Russell Jr., you’re gonna get stopped. Leo throws wasted punches and leaves them in the air, so he’s gonna end up getting knocked out.
You and your siblings are all fighting on the same card, May 18, two days before your father’s 60th birthday.
It’s cool that all three are on the same card again, but a Leo Santa Cruz or a Gervonta “Tank” Davis or whoever it is that we wanna compete against has already fought.
I have to defend my title once per year and within a certain time frame, and I don’t wanna continue to defend my title against mandatory challengers. I wanna fight the best.
For a closer look at Gary Russell Jr, check out his fighter page.
- Gary Russell Jr