The Curious Case of Mr. Gary Russell Jr

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From a young age Gary Russell Jr. seemed to have the makings of someone special. As a standout amateur he won the Golden Gloves and went on to represent the USA in the Bejing Olympics. Expectations were high for Russell when he turned pro and started fighting at Featherweight; Fighting six times in 2009, and seven times in 2010, it seemed that Russell on his way to becoming a star.

Fast forward to 2014, Russell has fought relatively frequently, but he has not stepped up his level of opposition at all. Russell has found his place in boxing, only as a curiosity, not a star. Like any fighter who regularly delivers one-sided beat downs to a home crowd, he has developed a certain fan base, but the wider national audience is bewildered as to why he has yet to seize an opportunity to fight world-class opposition. When he was a young amateur he fought the best, yet the constant spurts and lulls in his career have made his success difficult to chart. He almost seems to going backwards at times- Boxing’s own Benjamin Button.

With his extensive amateur background, southpaw stance, and quick hands, most fans would love to see his mettle tested against any of Golden Boy’s stacked Feather and Super Featherweight divisions. His career seems to be moving sideways. He consistently destroys no-name opposition; his last fight against unknown Miguel Tamayo is a prime example of an impressive performance that proves nothing. Reportedly, Russell was recovering from the flu when he fought Tamayo who to his credit gave a decent account of himself.

If a manufactured “0” and a quick, impressive style may prompt you to compare Russell to Adrien Broner, then the above interview will demonstrate how these similarities are only skin-deep. Russell is very subdued and seemingly not concerned with money or making a name for himself. Russell nods complacently as he fields the fans most burning question- When is he going to fight a big name? Don’t hold your breath.

Russell is vague and non-committal throughout his interview. When asked point-blank if he is excited or even wants to prove that he is an elite, world-class fighter he answers in a perplexingly lame way – “To a certain extent…” Russell seems as eager to answer these questions as he is to get in the ring with world-class talent.

Russell explains that he feels he is being avoided by the most elite fighters. While it is true that the big names aren’t necessarily willing to fight him, it’s not his 24 and 0 record that scares them. What motivation does a Ponce De Leon, Mares, or Gonzales have to fight Russell? With his glory days long behind him, and not much money or excitement to bring to a match, Russell is hardly a tempting target for the elites in his weight class. The fact that he is a crafty southpaw isn’t what is keeping away the big fights, maybe after proving himself against stiff opposition that is a case Russell can make but not yet.

Perhaps the most insight into his motivation comes near the end of the interview, when he concedes that he sees his boxing career as a job, a means for providing for his family. He has clearly prioritized the stability of his earning-potential over any desires to be recognized on the world stage. He lets slip that he and his father/trainer are careful not to do anything “foolish” when it comes to making big fights, thusly implying that it may be foolish for him to fight some of the bigger names. With the purse for his January 30th fight at 25k, he seems content, if not completely disinterested in going for a big money fight.

Garry Russell Jr. is a true talent, yet weather that talent is part of a total package including mental fortitude and a hunger to win like we see in Floyd Mayweather Jr., or if he is one-dimensional and waiting to be exposed, like former Welterweight titlist and Burberry enthusiast, Adrien Broner, is yet to be seen. The choice of weather to go forward and pursue big names, big money, and real risk in the ring, or to continue taking fights against nobodies will be between him and his father.

The big question is how much longer Golden Boy will keep putting him on undercards if his opposition fails to improve. For Gary Russell Jr. he has two important “0”s on his record- 0 defeats and 0 noteworthy opponents.