Gary Russell Jr. says he’ll get it right against Jhonny Gonzalez
Gary Russell Jr. never had dreams of becoming a world champion in boxing. As a matter of fact, his childhood boxing dreams have already been realized.
“You have a lot of fighters that always wanted to be a world champion but that’s never been a goal of mine,” Russell told RingTV.com as he prepares for his showdown with WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez on Saturday. “I always wanted to be an Olympian and I accomplished that goal in 2008. I received a lot of support from people that didn’t even know me so the only way to make it up to them for not winning a medal is by becoming a world champion.”
The promise for Russell Jr.’s career has always been there. However, between critics saying that his path has been littered with underwhelming opposition and a string of injuries that have stalled his progress, we are still waiting to see if the 26 year old can eventually take his place amongst boxing’s elite.
He came up short his first true test against elite competition against Vasyl Lomachenko last June but will get another opportunity to prove himself as one of the division’s elite against Gonzalez.
It could be viewed as Russell’s make or break moment. But let him tell it, there really isn’t that much pressure to perform.
“My father told me a long time ago that you can’t please everybody,” Russell said. “My goal was always to please myself and the people in my circle.”
Although the skeptics hovered around his loss to Lomachenko like a batch of cynical vultures, Russell doesn’t put too much stock in their comments that he was never as good as advertised.
“I’m not looking to prove anything,” Russell says flatly.
And if there was anything that Russell could have changed about the Lomachenko fight, it wouldn’t have anything to do with what he took place in the ring. Rather, the problems happened outside of it.
“If I learned anything from that fight that is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Russell says as he reflected on what went wrong against Lomachenko. For what was then the biggest fight of his career, Team Russell brought in a strength and conditioning coach that the featherweight says threw his training regime out of order.
“He had me in the sauna trying to cut the last couple of pounds without working out or anything and it completely drained me of all my energy,” Russell said. “I was completely tired in the first round and it didn’t matter if I was in the ring with a 10-year-old kid. In the state that I was in the physical ability to go 12 rounds with anyone was gone.”
Russell swiftly dismisses the notion that the majority decision loss had anything to do with what Lomachenko did in the ring on that night. “It wasn’t about him figuring me out,” he continued. “Anyone who has seen me fight you can clearly see that there was something different in my performance. It was all about what I was not capable of doing. I just didn’t have the energy.”
With that fight in his rearview mirror, Russell says that fight fans will see the old version of Gary Russell Jr. with superior hand speed, ring generalship and a high boxing IQ against Gonzalez. And with the utmost confidence that he will head back to Washington D.C. with the title, he’s ready and willing to clean out the rest of the division.
“I beat Leo Santa Cruz in the amateurs and he fights pretty much the same that he does now. Abner Mares would be a good fight and we were already trying to get that fight but it didn’t come about. But right now we’re trying to get through Gonzalez, get a world title and then we can start talking about the rest.”