Featherweight world champion has set his sights on Leo Santa Cruz and Gervonta Davis in what could be a special year for fight fans.
WBC 126-pound world champion Gary Russell Jr. has not fought since last May.
That night, Russell, 29-1 (17 KOs), overcame a damaged right hand and a stiff challenge from Joseph Diaz Jr. to win a unanimous decision at the MGM Grand National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Russell’s siblings, Antonio, 25, and Antuanne, 22, were on the undercard. Both scored knockout wins, giving their father, Gary Sr., plenty to celebrate on his 59th birthday.
Since beating Diaz, Gary Jr., the eldest of six fighting Russell siblings, has been occupied outside of the ring.
He and his wife, Sapphire, recently purchased a new home and experienced the births of his now two-month old twin daughter and son, Laila and Ali (after the champion female boxer by the same name). Altogether, Russell, 30, has four girls and two boys.
“My family has grown, and I can’t wait to complete this grind and to sit back and really be able to enjoy life with my family,” said Russell. “My wife and children have intensified my desire to be able to get in there and win. Right now, there are a few guys in my way of my family being able to have the things that I want for them, so that’s a very dangerous place for them to be because I’m ready to take all of them out, one-by-one.”
Prior to his third title defense, against Diaz, Russell said that he would be “cashing out” on his career “after six more fights,” an intention he reaffirmed during a recent workout at the family-owned Enigma Boxing Gym in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
The fast-handed southpaw also discussed his desire for a unification fight against WBA counterpart Leo Santa Cruz, and rising in weight for a potential bout against two-time 130-pound champion Gervonta Davis for an all-Maryland showdown.
“ I want to finish this year out heavy by getting three fights in. The middle fight will probably be Leo. ” WBC world featherweight champion, Gary Russell Jr.
“I’ve been saying that I wanted to fight Leo for I don’t know how long, and there’s no reason why that fight shouldn’t have happened. The WBC had made Leo my mandatory challenger, but he decided to fight a cream puff,” said Russell, who aims to return to action in April.
“I wanted to go directly at Leo Santa Cruz, but, now, I’ve got to find somebody else to sharpen my teeth on,” he continued. “I want to finish this year out heavy by getting three fights in. The middle fight will probably be Leo. Once I break my foot off on beating Leo, I’m planning on moving up to 130. So why not give me the winner of the Davis-Hugo Ruiz fight at the end of the year?”
In the meantime, Russell occupies himself with his family—and working his brother’s corners’ when they fight.
“My family and my mother are the foundation. That’s where everything starts. My friends are my brothers,” said Gary Russell Jr. “Every Sunday, everyone comes over to the house to eat. The family’s cohesiveness is of utmost importance to us.”
Gary Sr. said his oldest son’s next fight will likely against a WBC top-15-ranked opponent.
“Gary’s next fight will be a tune-up and it has to be from a list of WBC fighters. There are no easy walkovers, but this is a great way to promote the fight with Leo,” said Gary Sr.
“We’re thinking he’ll retire in three or four more fights, getting a percentage of network and advertising profits. If he leaves the sport with $40 or $50 million, we’re good to walk away, and we’re working toward that. Gary’s doing well for himself and his family.”
And that spells trouble for all potential opponents.
For a closer look at Gary Russell Jr., check out our fighter page.
- Gary Russell Jr