When featherweight contender Gary Russell Jr. enters the ring on March 2 at The Apollo Theater in New York, the unbeaten 24-year-old southpaw will be after his fourth straight stoppage victory against an opponent yet to be named.
Russell (21-0, 13 knockouts), of Captiol Heights, Md., will have an eye toward eventually facing WBC 126-pound beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 KOs), who is scheduled to face Puerto Rican prospect Jayson Velez (20-0, 15 KOs) in the main event on the same card.
“Ponce de Leon is one of the guys that we’re definitely looking at,” said Russell, who scored a third-round stoppage of Roberto Castaneda in his last fight in November. “Come September, we will have wanted to have gotten three fights in, consistently, and the fourth fight of the year, definitely, will be a title shot.”
In addition to Ponce de Leon, Russell has an eye out for former WBO titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs), who will return to the ring on Feb. 2 against Brazilian junior lightweight opponent Aldimar Silva Santos at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, site of his first of two knockout losses to Orlando Salido.
Lopez will be back in action for the first time since March 10, when he was stopped in the 10th round by Salido in San Juan, a repeat of Salido’s eighth-round knockout victory in April of last year.
“We’re looking at Juan Manuel Lopez along with Ponce de Leon,” said Russell Jr. “As of now, those are the guys that we’re definitely looking to go against.”
The Ponce de Leon-Velez undercard will also feature unbeaten lightweight contender Sharif “The Lion” Bogere (23-0, 15 KOs) and Richard Abril (17-3-1, 8 KOs) in a clash for the WBA’s belt. Bogere suffered a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon that forced him out of November’s scheduled bout against Abril.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]