|12-27-2011, 05:49 PM||#1|
2011 prospect of year: Gary Russell Jr.
When Gary Russell Jr. was a young boy, maybe age 5 or so, he began attending boxing cards in the Washington, D.C./Maryland region in the early '90s with his father, Gary Sr., a former pro fighter who now serves as his trainer. The precocious kid with the fast hands already was something of an entertainer.
Before the bouts would begin, Russell said, he was often invited into the ring to shadowbox for the crowd, which typically included the top fighters from the area.
Dan Rafael's prospects of the year
2011 Gary Russell Jr.
2010 Saul "Canelo" Alvarez
2009 Daniel Jacobs
2008 Victor Ortiz
2007 Amir Khan
2006 Andre Berto
2005 Joel Julio
2004 Samuel Peter
2003 Jermain Taylor
2002 Miguel Cotto
2001 Francisco Bojado
2000 Julio Diaz
"I wanted to box, but I was too young to compete as an amateur, so at least I could go in the ring," Russell said. "The older guys, the pros, they knew I was good. Sharmba Mitchell, Keith Holmes, William Joppy, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson -- these guys would pay me money to get in the ring to shadowbox, maybe about $5, and I would shadowbox and the crowd would love it."
Russell said he wasn't allowed to box as an amateur until he was 8, so the family fudged his age, and he had his first bout when he was actually 7.
Now he is a rising, 23-year-old professional featherweight with a huge future and already earning a lot more than just $5 per performance.
"He's very charismatic," said Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, who has a handshake deal with Al Haymon, Russell's adviser, to promote the fighter. "He's one of those handful of guys who have it all -- the talent; he's a good-looking kid; he can be funny, and he can fight."
Russell lost that first fight at age 7, but it was just the start of a decorated amateur career during which he had about 230 fights and, he said, "I know for sure I lost 11."
Russell, of Capitol Heights, Md., made sure to point out that a few years after losing that first fight, he avenged it by scoring a first-round knockout in the rematch.
He said he remembers each defeat (all but one avenged, because there was never a rematch), but there were also a ton of wins as Russell became the 2008 U.S. Olympic bantamweight, a junior Olympic champion, a two-time U.S. national champion and a National Golden Gloves champion. Russell is one of only two boxers to win a U.S. championship and National Golden Gloves title before age 17.
In 2005, a 17-year-old Russell won a bronze medal at the world amateur championships and was named USA Boxing's athlete of the year.
At the 2007 U.S. Olympic trials, Russell, a southpaw, became only the fourth fighter in history to lose his opening bout (to fellow prospect Roberto Marroquin) and rally through the losers bracket to earn an Olympic berth. You may have heard of the other three: Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Russell (19-0, 11 KOs), of course, hopes to follow in those fighters' footsteps to a great professional career and is laying the foundation even after the bitter disappointment of not being able to compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when he became ill and passed out during a weight check.
He ripped through 2011 with six wins -- granted, against modest competition -- and showed everything you could ask for from a young fighter: crazy hand speed (perhaps the best in boxing), power, skills, defense, smarts, poise, a dynamic style and a dash of showmanship.
Media Inc/Staff Photographer
Among his many precocious gifts, Gary Russell Jr. has some of the fastest hands in boxing.
"He is so advanced for such a young fighter," said Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez. "He has offense and defense, and he takes his time. He throws beautiful punches, throws combinations. He's the best prospect I've seen in a long time. He is, by far, our best prospect."
Golden Boy's best prospect and the 2011 ESPN.com prospect of the year.
Although the level of opponents Russell has faced so far as a pro isn't overly impressive, the way he has beaten them has been. He has barely lost a round and wasn't touched in a pair of HBO fights, a domination of last-minute opponent Leonilo Miranda in an eight-round decision in September and a spectacular first-round knockout of faded former bantamweight title challenger Heriberto Ruiz.
"I think my year has gone good, and I am 100 percent blessed," said Russell, who is deeply religious. "I'm very grateful that I have a good team and my dad as my coach. Everything is going just the way we planned. We plan on it being a bigger year in 2012. I'm ready for whatever comes my way. I just love what I do. I definitely love my job. [After] every fight, I am back in the gym on Monday. That is no myth."
Russell will open his 2012 slate on Feb. 11 in a Showtime-televised bout on the undercard of the rematch between top welterweights Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto, both past prospects of the year, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Gomez believes Russell can get into position to win a world title in 2012.
"I believe he can," Gomez said. "It's fun to see guys who are very exciting, like James Kirkland, Alfredo Angulo, Marcos Maidana. Everybody loves guys like that. But when you combine that aggression with the technique and style that Gary has -- he can stand right in front of you and slip punches and throw combinations -- that is something I love to watch. If we can get Gary in position to fight the big names at 126 and 130 [pounds], it will be fun. He can fight guys like [featherweight titlist] Chris John or [former titlist] Juan Manuel Lopez, and he would beat them right now, or at least give them a good fight."
Said Schaefer: "He's only 23, and he's so complete. You see some prospects, and you see a diamond in the rough who needs polishing. There is not much to be polished with Gary."
Russell, who married his wife, Sapphire, three months ago, knows he is on the fast track but isn't overly concerned about any timetable.
"I feel like the competition will definitely get steeper, but I feel my hand speed and punching power will be a factor," said Russell, one of six brothers named Gary [five of whom box]. "But I am not in a rush. I'm still young. I got a lot of time."
The one fighter Russell wants a piece of is former featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who is moving up to junior lightweight. Russell said he is taking his time moving up the ladder but hopes Gamboa is there for him down the road.
"Everyone is big on Gamboa. We want him so bad," Russell said. "We see so many mistakes he makes, but his opponents don't act on it. I'm hoping and praying that nobody beats him. I want him to keep his hype going because I am the one who is coming for him."
Coming for Gamboa and, very likely, many other top fighters.
|12-27-2011, 06:00 PM||#2|
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Always liked russell and he even had somewhat of a following on those Golden Boy cards I'd watch on UStream. he defo reminds me of 2 Sharp, but stronger and faster. love what been seeing out of Russel Jr and Mikey Garcia. so much talent to come in that division
|12-27-2011, 06:12 PM||#4|
|12-27-2011, 06:20 PM||#5|
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I think these are the fastest hands I have ever seen in my life. 0:29-0:34 UNREAL
Dulorme has some real power.
|12-27-2011, 06:28 PM||#8|
On a boat, beeeeotch!
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Not a bad choice. Dan has been pretty good with picking prospects and the ones with a bright future. A lot of those guys, including Russell, it's pretty easy to see talent but still have to get props.
|12-27-2011, 07:30 PM||#10|
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