As the undefeated southpaw prepares for his biggest challenge when he faces former champ Viktor Postol in a 140-pound showdown Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME, he's confronted with something even greater outside the ring.
Gary Antuanne Russell believes someone is always watching. Whether the talented 25-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, feels it in a cool breeze over his shoulder when he’s running or in a small reminder during the day.
Russell says boxing has evolved into something deeper outside of the ring. He’s past the sport aspect. It’s not just for the smiles. It’s beyond the excitement of a big fight. Success, he’s found, has translated into something more tangible. More lasting.
And the underlying thought that it could easily be the last time a loved one sees him fight again.
This Saturday, Russell (14-0, 14 KOs) looks to take another step in his evolution when he faces former WBC super lightweight world champion Viktor Postol (31-3, 12 KOs) in a 10-round co-feature in a PBC on SHOWTIME card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Russell-Postol fight will be followed by the main event, pitting undefeated rising star Chris “Primetime” Colbert against unbeaten Dominican Olympian Hector Garcia in a 12-round WBA super featherweight title eliminator.
“The world is going to see the best version of me, honestly speaking. This is what I’m ordained to do, because boxing is now something that I want to do, not something that I have to do,” Gary Antuanne said. “I always wanted to box. My reasons behind it are different. When I was younger, my reason was to keep a smile on my family’s face.
“When I saw (Gary Russell Jr.) do it, I wanted to do it. Every time he did it, my mom, my family, they were happy. It was a sport, instead of a lifestyle then. And now, it’s a lifestyle of excellence. There is deeper value with boxing. I see how greatness in the ring can change a life. Success is presented differently to me.”
Gary Antuanne is now starting to understand the machinery his father, Gary Russell Sr., the patriarch of the Russell family boxing tree, put in place years ago.
The sport now has a visceral pull on Gary Antuanne, especially after the loss of his older brother, Gary Boosa, who died at the age of 25 from a heart attack in December 2020.
“I live with it every day,” Gary Antuanne said. “It happened two weeks from Christmas. I remember coming back from training from our Enigma Boxing Gym and I saw my father on the front porch, and my father doesn’t show emotion. But that day, his lips were quivering and his face was balled up.
“I could tell something was wrong. I hopped out of the car and my dad told me Gary Boosa was dead. Our house sits on a hill and I took off running. My father started calling me. I didn’t know where I was running to, but I still weep to this day for my brother.”
“ It’s more than just for the smiles. ” Undefeated Super Lightweight Contender - Gary Antuanne Russell
A year later, in December 2021, Russell Sr., 62, had his foot amputated due to complications caused by Type 2 diabetes.
“It was one thing after another,” Gary Antuanne recalled. “My father tries to stay strong for us. We try to stay strong for him. Seeing him in distress puts us in distress, but we can’t show him that, because he’s always given us this positive energy.”
What the Russell family kept quiet until now is that Gary Sr. was going through a serious health issue in January before Gary Russell Jr. defended the WBC featherweight title against challenger Mark Magsayo in Atlantic City.
“We were running to every CVS and pharmacy we could get to,” Gary Antuanne recalled. “My father’s sugar was up over 500, and it has to be around 200 for it to be normal. My father’s lips were dropping and slanting, he began slurring his words. This happened two nights before my brother’s fight.
“My father started spitting up blood in the hotel room. Gary still fought. My father wouldn’t want it any other way. The reality of it is that it’s part of life. We’re all in that ring together. It’s the feeling my father instilled in all of us.
“What made my brother Gary Boosa happy was when we won. What makes our father happy is when we win. We win, it means more opportunity and more stability for my family. It’s why I’m more mature. It’s more than just for the smiles.”
Gary Antuanne says he’s a changed fighter. He used to juggle boxing and free time. Boxing, he realizes, has become more of a privilege than an obligation. He says that attitude has come through time.
“Juggling everything is something I want to master now, and I know Postol is going to come and try to beat me up,” Gary Antuanne said. “It’s not going to work. I respect him. I don’t concern myself with the knockout streak. If they come, they come.”
He’s sure Postol will try to time him. He feels Postol has the sense that Gary Antuanne is going to explode on him like a mad man. Postol is rangy with long arms, and he favors his right side, Gary Antuanne said. The impression is Gary Antuanne is strictly a pressure fighter, but they’re wrong. He stresses no one looks at how versatile he can be.
“If the knockout comes with everything I execute in the gym, I’m okay with that,” Gary Antuanne said. “People put too much emphasis on the knockout streak. I can’t step out of what I do. Remember, I’m a superstar (laughs). My dad and my team are still here with me. Gary Junior and Gary Allan will be in my corner—and my brother, Gary Boosa.
“He’s there for all of my fights. I know it.”
For a closer look at Gary Antuanne Russell, check out his fighter page.