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Gary Russell Jr. pushes for higher purses

Photo by: Naoki Fukuda
05
Oct

Gary Russell Jr. provided a little context as to why he has only fought once in the last 18 months, saying he’s still waiting on the proper financial package to lure him back into the ring.

“We’re businessman, no matter what the situation is,” Russell told RingTV.com of why he hasn’t fought since April. “The objective is you want to have financial stability no matter what it is that your occupation is. So I think it’s the smart thing to do on our end,” he said of making sure he’s appropriately compensated.

The talented Russell, who holds a featherweight title, framed his career as nearing its end, with just three years left before he moves onto the next phase of his life, making the income he receives for any future fights that much more important. Russell declined to specify the types of financial numbers he’s looking for. But a source said he made in excess of $800,000 for his second-round knockout of Patrick Hyland on April 16.

“Before I compete again, there’s definitely a couple things that I need before I step back into the ring,” he said of receiving the right deal. “I have a great working relationship with (advisor) Al Haymon. He’s done everything that we’ve asked in my entire career. I’ve got another three years, maybe it depends on how these fights are spread apart. We’re looking at taking everyone who’s supposed to be someone and scratching them off the list.”

Russell (27-1, 16 knockouts) made it clear he’s happy with the way Haymon has handled his career, even if he hasn’t fought since April 16. His last fight before then was March 28 of 2015, a fourth-round stoppage of Jhonny Gonzalez. A number of high profile fighters under Haymon have also been plagued with inactivity and fought only once this year, such as Danny Garcia, Danny Jacobs, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, among others. No one has complained publicly and Russell was careful to make sure his comments weren’t construed as criticism of Haymon.

“Al Haymon has done a wonderful job so far with my entire career,” Russell said.  “I’ve been blessed. We’ve had a smooth working relationship with Al for my entire career. There’s nothing that I haven’t asked him for that he didn’t fulfill and I’m looking forward to moving on this year.” Because of that relationship, Russell plans to stay with Haymon for the rest of his career, he said.

A Haymon spokesman explained Russell’s situation, defending his activity level and describing it as somewhat self-imposed and basically his decision to fight at his current pace. “If it were up to fans they would want to see their favorite boxers in the ring once a month. However, boxers fight at different paces and for different levels of compensation based on different factors such as age, health, championship status,” said Tim Smith, VP of Communications for Haymon Boxing. “Gary fought just once in 2015. So he knows the pace and compensation that he’s comfortable with at this stage of his career. He’s earned that privilege. It is a very physically and mentally demanding sport so boxers need to be certain that everything is on point before they step in the ring and risk their lives to entertain their fans.”

The WBC recently announced that Russell and interim titleholder Oscar Escandon have been ordered to face off. The 28-year-old former U.S. Olympian spoke of returning to the ring before the end of the year. “We don’t have a date set as of yet,” he said, not specifically addressing that fight. “I plan on getting back into the ring in the next couple of months. There’s a couple of things that we were looking for specifically before competing anyway. It’s certain things that we’re asking for before we even compete again. It’s in the making. I’m in the gym every day.”

In the meantime, Russell has kept busy by sponsoring a team of 13 top amateurs called “Team Gary Russell” that he hopes to match with other teams supported by professional boxers such as Deontay Wilder, Porter, Thurman and Adrien Broner. Russell said he’s already reached out to them and there is strong interest in forming such a consortium of amateur teams. Russell hopes to one day manage or promote these fighters and is in the process of creating his own promotional company.