Gary Russell Jr. Looks To Silence His Critics, Wants Juanma Lopez Next


Boxing differs from other sports in many ways, but one way in particular is the ranking of its athletes. In football and basketball you simply have professional or collegiate and in baseball you have a separation amongst developmental leagues i.e. AAA, AA and Single A, but once you make it to the pros you are regarded as a pro.

Most of the time this kind of framework succeeds its own agenda, and then there are times where the player is cut, traded, or sent down to the minors. My point is pros in other sports have no room for a learning curve and are forced to compete amongst themselves. It doesn’t matter if you are a rookie, you will be playing against the 15 year vet on any given outing.

Boxing, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated in its approach. Terms like prospect, contender and champion seem like adequate notions but are sometimes blurred in the “everlast”-ing (see what I did there) world of grey that is boxing.

Gary Russell Jr. is one of those grey areas because it’s hard to put your finger on a term that best describes him. You could go the safe route and call him a prospect, but is he really the truest form of prospect? With that in mind, is he really a contender?

Russell Jr. is one of those guys that everyone is anxious to see down the road because he possesses a high skill level and shows distinctive hand/foot speed mirrored only by the kind of predecessors whose careers are legendary. Yet, I don’t think many people ever keep guys like Russell Jr. in perspective. Sure he’s talented and far more talented than the average prospect, but that doesn’t mean he should have to fight guys he’s not ready for and it certainly doesn’t make him a coddled fighter if he doesn’t.

Russell Jr.’s 20 win undefeated record defines him in the ring, but he explained on’s radio show that he is defined by his wholesome nature outside the ring.

“I’m very family oriented and a lot more laid back than the Adrien Broners and Floyd Mayweathers, but also I love to have fun. To each his own, that’s just who [Adrien Broner] is as a person. I’m probably the complete opposite. I’m the oldest out of six boys, everything I do involves family. If I’m not at the gym or home with my wife then I’m doing something with my brothers, my Mom, and my Dad,” Russell Jr. said.

Russell Jr. is getting to the point where he wants to take a dramatic step up in competition, it seems as though the critics are getting a little too loud for him. However, it also seems that to him the point is moot because he feels as though he can justify his record to this point, even if he admittedly knows it can get better.

“I want to actually silent some of the criticism that’s out there; I’m not one to be boastful or loud or anything of that nature. A lot of people claim that I really haven’t fought anyone, when in actuality I fought guys that were like 45-6 with 37 knockouts. Anytime you step into the ring with a guy with that type of record, I don’t care if he fought 37 cab drivers; you have to consider him a dangerous fighter.”

The name that continually pops up as a potential foe for Gary Russell Jr. is Puerto Rican featherweight Juan Manuel Lopez, who is, like Russell Jr., currently without a date for the remainder of the year.

That fight would be a tremendous step up in competition and could very well be an exciting fight. That is a fight that Russell Jr. shouldn’t have to justify, but he does explain why he wants a fight like Lopez now more than ever.

“I just want to prove to people that I can fight people of that elite caliber and still make the fight as easy as they’ve been looking and I want to see what the criticism will be then when I face a guy of this caliber and I still make it look as easy as I do. I feel it’s time to make my move as far as big name fighters go. I think [Juan Manuel Lopez] is definitely a great fighter, we’re taking our time and being punctual about who we’re competing against, we have a plan.”

The plan in question is being concocted by advisor to the stars Al Haymon. There are very few in the business that could come up with a better game plan than Al Haymon and it seems as though the Russell camp has a good grasp on things.

“I feel if I was to go out here now and fight the Gamboa’s or the Salido’s it would be good because I feel I can beat these guys, but at the end of the day we are prizefighters.

“I think the more hype that is allowed to build the more fans will actually want to see it; it would do us more justice in the long run then if we were to fight these guys now. If I beat all of the top guys now then who’s there for me to compete against 2 or 3 years down the road.”

Still, because Russell is such a hot prospect and because Juan Manuel Lopez is coming off of a devastating loss at the hands of Orlando Salido — a fighter who had beaten him once before — it seems to some fans that this isn’t the test it should be, which is completely absurd.

“I understand where the fans are coming from and I can also tell you in due time we will compete against these guys. I would love to compete against these guys as of now, but I don’t make the decisions by myself, we make decisions as a whole with me, Al Haymon, my coaching staff makes decisions.”

There is no need for Russell Jr. to justify this fight to the fans; it is a huge step up and certainly in the right direction towards the very top of the boxing ranks. However, the fight with Lopez (Top Rank) doesn’t seem like it would be extremely easy to make considering Russell Jr.’s close ties with Golden Boy. Russell Jr. insists that the fight is a possibility and could be happening sooner rather than later.

“It’s realistic; in fact, I think it’s something that will go through in the next couple months or so.”

Russell Jr. ended the conversation with a synopsis of where he is in the sport and where he sees himself in the near future. His plans are as bold as he is talented.

“I’m coming to take over the sport. We need the right building blocks, I’m one of those guys when the time comes I want it to be no question that I am the best at what I do in my division. Therefore, anyone in the division that feels as though they are better than me will be answered for me. I’m all for going right now, my management team and coaching staff are the ones saying ‘we know you’re ready, let’s take our time and we’ll gradually step it up.’ I can beat these big names without a doubt; I feel I can beat these big names easy. I think a lot of these guys are tailor made for me.”


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