"We feel as though this is our season and that this is my time to make that run and to win a world title belt," said Russell, a 25-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Md. "I can't let you in an all of the secrets, but I can tell you this: We'll be having a title fight sooner than a lot of people think."
Russell (24-0, 14 knockouts) shared his thoughts during a Q&A with RingTV.com, having battled through the flu during his victory over Tamayo that had followed a unanimous decision over Juan Ruiz last August.
In October, Russell was declared the WBO's mandatory challenger to the winner between Mexican titleholder Orlando Salido and Ukrainian two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, who will meet on March 1.
WBC beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez turned down an offer to face Russell from Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, after winning the belt by shocking first-round knockout over three-division titlewinner Abner Mares in August.
Russell spoke more about his future in this Q&A, below.
RingTV.com: How bad was your flu situation before the Tamayo fight?
Gary Russell Jr.: I was really hurting, man. That thing was whipping me, man, but I was able to pull through. We were actually considering pulling out of the fight because I wasn't feeling too good at all.
My voice had completely left me. I didn't have my voice at all, it seemed like. I was sick. I was having cold sweats, etc., leading up to the fight. So, yeah, we were actually about to pull out of it.
We didn't want to take any medication for it because we didn't know if they were going to try to test us or what the situation was in terms of something maybe popping up. So we just had to fight through, fight through it and try to sweat it all out. So we just fought through it even though at the tail end of the fight, I was still feeling it.
RingTV.com: If you had pulled out, wouldn't that have been more fuel for your critcs?
GR: Like I've said before, we don't pay any mind to the criticism. What a lot of people don't take into consideration or they fail to realize is that this a business. This is a lifestyle and I'm aware of that.
I'm not just a fighter, I'm an entertainer. So I have to remain mindful that this is a business, and that this is how we, as fighters, feed our families. For us, this is our means of providing for their lives.
So we really don't pay attention to the criticism that much — or I don't pay attention to the criticism — based on the fact that at the end of the day, I'm going to cross my "T's" and dot my "I's" all the way around the board.
Because in the end, one wrong mistake, and one forced fight based on the fact that I was listening to criticism could wind up being very costly, not just to me, but to my family.
So given that it's my job to provide for my family, and to give them the best that they need in life, I'm not willing to rush that along for anyone. A lot of times, when you hear interviews after a fight, it's about wanting to thank God first.
I hope that people are really taking heed to that, because, without God, I really feel as though none of this would be possible, man. I have just been completely blessed.
He's shown me so many things and has just given me the gifts to be able to perform and to be able to showcase my talents in front of thousands and thousands of people. Why not give him the praise for that?
RingTV.com: How badly do you want to fight the Salido-Lomachenko winner next?
GR: Well, I've said before that we wanted to get to 22-0 or 23-0 before we competed for one of these titles. Could we have competed for one earlier than that? Sure, we could have.
But you know, everyone has a plan, and we stuck to the details so things couldn't go wrong. So we met our quota, and now, we're ready. Like I've said, we're the mandatory for the WBO title, and we would love to compete against Salido or Lomachenko.
It doesn't matter to me, either way, who wins the fight. We would also love to compete against a Jhonny Gonzalez or an Abner Mares if they have their rematch. We would love to get the winner of that as well.
We feel as though this is our season and that this is my time to make that run and to win a world title belt. I can't let you in on all of the secrets, but I can tell you this: We'll be having a title fight sooner than a lot of people think.