By Chris Robinson
On Saturday, June 30th, featherweight hopeful Gary Russell Jr. improved his record to 20-0 with 12 knockouts with a blazing display that saw him drop Sinaloa, Mexico’s Christopher Perez three times en route to a commanding 3rd round TKO victory at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA.
Russell was in rare form in the second bout of a Showtime-televised tripleheader, blitzing his overmatched foe with powerful shots from all angles and he seems elated with his most recent display, his first showcase of 2012.
“It feels wonderful,” Russell told me early Wednesday. “I’m a performer and an entertainer, and to be able to perform at that level after a long layoff like that, it felt good.”
Russell is one of the most talked about prospects in the game and he is flirting with contender status, even having told me prior to his weigh-in with Perez that he is itching for a crack at former champion Juan Manuel Lopez, who is coming off of a brutal stoppage loss at the hands of Orlando Salido in March that saw him get a one-year suspension from the WBO for his disparaging post-fight comments directed towards referee Robert Ramirez Sr.
Russell still has interest in facing Lopez but admits it might be a fight that takes place later than he initially expected.
“Most definitely that’s a fight we are looking at,” Russell confirmed. “But, unfortunately, we found out he was suspended until 2013. I had no knowledge of that. But that’s someone we definitely still are looking at. Hopefully, once his suspension is up we will be willing to see him.”
Russell went on to add that he and his wife are expecting a baby in August and that he is eyeing a September ring return.
I was also curious for the Washington, D.C. native’s thoughts on one of the sport’s champions one division south of him, Nonito Donaire. Donaire is looking for a successful defense of his WBO bauble this weekend in an HBO-televised unification bout with IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula in Carson, California and Russell was quick to pay his respect to the Fil-Am star.
“Man, I’m definitely familiar with him,” said Russell of Donaire. “I think he’s a good fighter. He’s one of the fighters that is out here in boxing that I feel is fundamentally sound. I feel a lot of guys win off of natural athleticism. A lot of these guys have a lot of flaws that I see and Nonito Donaire is one of the few that I feel has very little flaws and is technically sound.”
Donaire is coming off of a dominating triumph over Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. on February 4th in San Antonio, Texas. In that fight, Donaire landed several flush, telling blows but was unable to dispatch his gritty counterpart, instead settling for a split-decision victory on the scorecards.
In the wake of that performance, Russell pointed out that it may be best for Donaire to clean out the junior featherweight class before making a move to 126 pounds.
“I think it would definitely be smart for him to stay at 122 and one of the reasons is that in his last fight he spoke on how he felt he didn’t bring his punching ability up with him in weight, because he was actually at 118 first I believe and he just moved up to 122. He felt that he didn’t bring the same power that he did at 118 that he did to 122,” Russell added.
Russell still sees Donaire as having the ability to do well at featherweight but warns him who he truly feels the division’s top dog will be by the time he gets there.
“I think punching power is a big factor when you move up in weight, but I think he’s one of those guys that is exceptional enough that even if he was to come up to 126, he’ll fair pretty well with some of these guys,” stated Russell. “I definitely feel as though he can be beaten, though. If he’d be willing to take the fight, I don’t think that he could deal with my hand speed or my punching ability as well.”
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