Thursday, June 20, 2024  |


Q&A: Russell says Mares is ‘tailor-made’ for him

Fighters Network


Unbeaten featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr., of Capitol Heights, Md., said that he would like to face junior lightweight standout Yuriorkis Gamboa at a catchweight, and that a fight agains 126-pound titleholder Abner Mares would “be so easy,” among other things, during a recent Q&A with

Russell (22-0, 13 knockouts), a speedy southpaw who turns 25 in June, also discussed his physical progress following a diagnosis of a hairline fracture in his left hand which occurred during his unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Gusev on March 2.

Trained by his father, Gary Russell Sr., Russell is scheduled to return to action against an opponent to be determined on the July 13 undercard of the Bernard HopkinsKaro Murat IBF light heavyweight title fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

After his next fight, Russell said he will turn his attention to perhaps the biggest opportunity of his career, which he hopes is a clash with either Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) or Mares (26-0-1, 14 KOs).

Gamboa is slated to face Colombia’s Darley Perez on June 8 at Bell Centre in Montreal on HBO, and Mares is coming off a ninth-round stoppage of Daniel Ponce de Leon for the WBC’s featherweight title on the May 4 Showtime PPV undercard to Floyd Mayweather Jr.Robert Guerrero.

Prior to facing Ponce de Leon, Mares also said that he would like to face Russell.

Although Russell has said that he “is not signed to any promotions team,” the figher’s “working relationship with Golden Boy Promotions has also been great.”

But potential high-profile opponents, such as Nonito Donaire, Guillermo Rigondeaux and RING featherweight champ Mikey Garcia are handled by Top Rank, a bitter rival of Golden Boy and Russell’s advisor Al Haymon. So I understand that you had an appointment for your daughter at her school today?

Gary Russell Jr.: She’s only 4 years old. Her name is Sacred, and she’s starting pre-K. We had a parent-teacher conference today. Right now, she’s right on schedule with everything as far as her developmental skills. She’s right on point. 

RTV: Are you ready to let her go or is that difficult for you?

GR: [Laughs] It is a little difficult, man, because that’s my baby girl. She’s my first born. I have a nine-month old girl who is named Gianna. Two girls. I can not have boys for some reason. [Laughs.]

RTV: What’s so difficult about letting your baby girl go?

GR: It’s not knowing what’s going on. If she’s okay. Just the normal worries of a parent, you know? Is she doing good? Is she listening? Are kids picking on her? Is she taking care of herself? There is always going to be questions when it comes to your children.

RTV: That’s probably a direct parallel to how your father feels about you in the ring, but a contrast to how confident you, yourself, feel when you’re in action, right?

GR: Oh yeah. Most definitely. And that’s weird, because now I kind of understand how my dad feels. Especially when I’m competing. He’s the one on bricks. I’m talking about he’s completely nervous. He’s a nervous wreck the day of the fight.

But I tell him, “Dad, it’s okay. We’re cool. We put the work in in the gym. I’m ready, I’m focused.” I tell him, “Go ahead and sit back, I’m going to go and handle this business for us. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

RTV: So how is the progress going in regard to your hairline fracture?

GR: Rehabbing is pretty much over. The fracture is pretty good now. I don’t really have any problems out of it.

We just started back punching and hitting the bag and everything about a couple days ago.

We’re doing everything in 20 ounce gloves — the bag, the mitts, everything in 20 ounce gloves. So, we’re pretty much ready. We’re good. Training camp just started, so we’re ready to make this run.

We’re ready to have a good showing and we’re ready to go on July 13. Hopefully, God-willing, my hand holds up and we’re looking to try to shoot for a title in maybe the next fight or the fight after that.

RTV: With Mares being a virtual promotional stablemate, would he be one of those you would target as far as a title?

GR: Actually, Mares and I are not really stablemates. We have a very good working relationship with Golden Boy, but we’re not under any contract with Golden Boy.

So, that’s one of the potential fights that we’re planning on looking at. We’re looking forward to doing business with Golden Boy down the road, so, you never know.

RTV: When you say “Down the road,” do you think there is a possibility of getting any other guys, such as Donaire or Rigondeaux?

GR: Those are possibilities. As far as getting with Rigondeaux at 122 or something like that, I’m not really sure about that. We’re actually looking forward to receiving one of these titles and then move up in weight, maybe to 130 or so.

As far as Donaire and them goes, I think we’d probably be willing to meet them at a catchweight or something like that somewhere down the road.

RTV: How about Mikey Garcia?

GR: Mikey Garcia is definitely not a problem as well. But we’re more so looking at receiving one of these titles, moving up in weight and seeing if we can get a super fight with me and Yuriorkis Gamboa.

RTV: When you say, “receive one of the titles,” what’s the one that’s most accessible at 126?

GR: Honestly, I believe that would be the belt that Abner has. So he can hold onto that for a little bit. But I would be willing to face him.

God-willing, if my hand holds up through July, and we get through the fight injury-free, it would be in September or October, somewhere in there.

RTV: What are your thoughts on fighting at Barclays on the Hopkins-Murat undercard?

GR: I’ve never been there. Honestly [laughs] being 100 percent with you, with Bernard Hopkins being the main event, that’s definitely not an issue in my eyes. I’m always the main event.

I feel as though my performance is so much more stellar than any of the guys that I compete on cards with, anyway. In my eyes, I’m always the main event. As far as it being at the Barclays Center, it’s cool.

I like it because of the fact that it’s an opportunity to have my friends and family that are home, the travel wouldn’t be to tough for them so they can come out and see me compete.

But I’m 100 percent warrior. I’m a gladiator. We can box on the sidewalk for all that I care. I feel as though the outcome is still going to be the same.

RTV: What were your thoughts on Mares’ performance against a guy that went the distance with Adrien Broner?

GR: [Laughs.] I think he’s okay. I think he’s tailor-made for me. I think that everyone is going to have this fight hyped if it does go down. I feel that everybody’s going to have it so hyped up to be a great fight.

They’re going to hype him up to be a monster. But when I compete against him, it’s going to be so easy. I like that, because that’s going to really make it.

I love the fact that they’re going to make this guy look like a monster, so that I can get him and beat him the way that I will beat him. It will make me look that much better.



Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images, Jeff Bottari-Golden Boy, Al Bello-Getty Images

Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]