By Luis Sandoval
Featherweight Gary Russell Jr (23-0, 13KOs) suffered a hand injury earlier this year in March against Vyacheslav Gusev which prevented 2013 from being a breakout year for the former Olympian. After a long rehabilitation, Russell was able to test out the hand a couple weeks ago as he won a 10 round unanimous decision over Juan Ruiz (23-12, 7 KOs).
Russell was able to record a lopsided victory but despite winning the fight, he still feels the hand isn’t fully healed.
“It's pretty good. It's definitely not at 100%. They said it was going to take 6-8 weeks to rehab. It took much longer than that to get it back in order to where I was able to start punching. It took me up to 8 weeks before I could even start jogging. Anything that vibrated the hand hurt. So when I fought I was a little hesitant and it was equivalent to you having a piece of glass in your foot and you know you took it out but you're still scared to really step down on it. It was equivalent to that. I still felt it somewhat so it’s maybe at about 70%. So in about a month or a month and a half it should be at 100%” Russell would tell BoxingScene Radio.
While Russell has dazzled us with his hand speed and highlight reel knockouts, many are ready to see him step up and put his skills to the test against the big names of the division. Many have grown impatient but Russell says he’s ready to fight the champions. One fight that is possible is against Featherweight title holder Abner Mares who fights this Saturday night against Jhonny Gonzalez.
Russell has not yet stepped into the ring against anybody who is anywhere near the talent level of Mares but the young contender is more than ready to make the leap.
“We can definitely take that leap man. Me personally, I feel like I was ready for that bout maybe 8 fights ago. But there's always a plan. There's a method behind the madness. We have a plan and we wanted to stick to our plan and we've achieved it to this point. We wanted to get to at least 23-0 before we fought for a title” said the former 2008 Olympian.
Mares is considered one of the best fighters in or around the featherweight division and one look at his resume shows the caliber of opponents he’s beaten over the last couple years. Russell on the other hand has shown plenty of promise but up until now, we still haven’t seen the young contender tested against a top caliber fighter.
Russell gives Mares all the respect for being a world champion but he still feels he’s a better fighter and doesn’t believe Mares can beat him.
“I take nothing from Abner. I think he is a good fighter. He proved himself by becoming a world champion so you can't never take nothing away from a guy who won the right to be called a world champion. But with that being said with him being the champion, I still don't feel as though he possesses the skill that it would take to beat me. He's a good fighter but I see a lot of flaws that we can capitalize on. We're real strategic when it comes to breaking down fighters. It's a lot of stuff we can capitalize on; it’s a lot of stuff. We're definitely ready to make that leap against any of these guys in the division right now” said Russell.
Russell hopes to fight one more time before the year comes to a close. He said he’s ready for a world title next should the opportunity present itself and if Mares or any other top fighter is presented, he’s ready to accept.
You can listen to Gary Russell Jr’s interview in its entirety by listening to the BoxingScene Radio podcast:
You can follow Luis Sandoval on Twitter @Truewest007. You can also tune in to BoxingScene Radio, Boxingscene’s official audio show every Tuesday from 6-8PM PST with hosts Ernest Gabion, Luis Sandoval, and Ryan Burton.