By Jake Donovan
Some fighters will sit around and wait for an opportunity to develop. Others are confident enough in their ability to create opportunities on their own.
Gary Russell Jr. falls into the latter category. With that came the difficult decision to withdraw from a featherweight showdown against Luis Franco, instead focusing on the chance to remain active.
Speculation had begun over the reasons for Russell (19-0, 11KO) abruptly pulled out of the fight, which was initially penciled in for a June 30 slot on Showtime. Golden Boy Promotions, who represents Russell, is the lead promoter for the card, which features Cornelius Bundrage in a 154 lb. title defense against Cory Spinks, as well as Erislandy Lara against Freddy Hernandez in a supporting bout.
The card suffered a shakeup when Golden Boy Promotions lost control over the fight when Gary Shaw Productions – who promotes Franco – won the rights in a recent purse bid. Shaw’s plan was to bring the fight to HBO on an unspecified date.
Russell hasn’t fought since scoring a 1st round knockout over Heriberto Ruiz last November. The bout was shown via tape delay on HBO, two months after Russell Jr. made his network debut with an eight-round points win over Leonilo Miranda.
Concerned over his career being further delayed, Golden Boy made the command decision to keep the 24-year old active, even if it meant stepping backwards in terms of level of competition.
“It has nothing to do with the promoters. We’ve always done well working together with Gary Shaw,” Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO, informed Boxingscene.com on Monday afternoon. “The only reason we pulled Gary Russell out of the fight was that the fight wasn’t going to be ready for June 30.”
Russell will remain on the June 30 card, though whether or not he will still appear on the Showtime portion of the card remains to be seen. The hunt is on for an opponent, though simply remaining on the card remains the primary objective.
“Fighters want to be busy,” Schaefer commented of Russell, now in his 4th year as a pro. “Gary (Russell) and Golden Boy didn’t want to wait for an HBO date, which there are none in the immediate future. We’d have to wait until after the summer.
Russell’s career has been met with great anticipation ever since his brilliant run as an amateur. The run in the non-pay ranks ended in heartache when Russell passed out prior to the weigh-in for his first round bout in the 2008 Olympics. Russell was viewed as a leader of the U.S. squad and heavily favored to medal, but was instead forced to spend his time in Beijing as a spectator.
The goal from the moment Russell turned pro in early 2009 was to hit the ground running. Golden Boy hasn’t lost of sight of that, as evidenced in the company supporting Russell’s decision to remain active over waiting around for the sake of a larger payday.
“If we have an opportunity to keep him busy, let’s do that. It’s about that, and nothing more.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]