By Francisco Salazar
Do not let the demeanor of Gary Russell Jr. fool you. That chip on his shoulder attitude he carries with him in and out of the ring is probably due to being unbeaten and because he has dominated 21 fighters he has faced in his professional career.
If one had Russell’s pedigree and speed, one may carry the same demeanor and attitude around with them as does Russell.
However, Russell has not needed to boast about the type of fighter he is. He has let his hands do the talking. And those hands have painted a picture of invincibility thus far, but eager to face tough challenges to secure a world title bout.
Russell will have the opportunity again to showcase his boxing skills tonight, as he faces Vyacheslav Gusev in a scheduled 10 round bout at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
The bout will precede the 12 round main event bout world title belt holder Richard Abril and challenger Sharif Bogere. Both fights will be televised live on Showtime.
Few in the boxing world give Gusev little if any chance at defeating Russell. Gusev has won four bouts in a row against obscure and less than modest competition since his 10 round unanimous decision loss to Juan Carlos Burgos in June of 2009.
Gusev will be a change in the style of opponents Russell has faced recently. Russell has faced brawling and aggressive styles from Mexican and Mexican-American fighters, while Gusev has the European boxer style.
“I’m going to take him out of his element early in the fight,” Russell told Boxingscene.com earlier this week over the phone. “I’m going to force him to come to me and fight.”
Gusev may or may not give Russell(21-0, 13 KOs) a physically demanding test tonight. In fact, Russell has yet to break a sweat in recent bouts, even though he has stepped up his opposition fighting fringe or former contenders.
In his last bout on November 9th, Russell knocked out Roberto Castaneda in the third round of a scheduled 10 round bout. Two fights before that, Russell viciously knocked out former world title challenger Heriberto Ruiz in the first round.
Russell has yet to face that fighter who has given him a difficult challenge, which would probably force his promoters at Golden Boy and advisor Al Haymon to find more accomplished fighters for him to face.
“Not at all,” replied Russell when asked if he has had that one opponent thus far who has given him a worthy challenge. “I really haven’t had that fight where I had to get out of first or second gear. I haven’t been taken to that level where it’s third or fourth gear for me.”
“In fact, I’m not surprised that I have dominated my opposition. I’ve been in the boxing game for 16 years and time is of the essence. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve worked hard and trained hard. I even thought when I was an amateur I was better than some of the pro fighters.”
As an amateur, Russell applied his craft while growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. From Southern California to Mississippi, Russell has fought in different locales, but has yet to fight as a professional in the “DMV” (DC, Maryland, Virginia area).
Russell pointed out to the large crowds in recent months when Lamont Peterson fought at the Convention Center and more recently on Friday, at the DC Armory. Russell is eager to fight back home as a pro and thinks the area could benefit from more boxing.
“I would love to compete back home. It’s something that I’ve talked about and desired. There is a lot of talent that gets overlooked in that area. It would pump up the area and they support it 100 percent.”
If in any way, Russell may come across as cocky or arrogant, he is completely the opposite. The 24 year old is mild-manned and soft-spoken.
“I’m not one to brag. I’m a gentleman in and out of the ring.”
One could make the case Russell is already ready to fight the featherweight division’s best fighters. Should Russell come out victorious, he could make a case to do so.
Even Russell believes so, but that is up to his handlers. He may not be well-known now, but he believes that he will have the ability to become that force to be reckoned with against any worthy contender or champion in the featherweight division.
“I may not please everybody, but I will face the better competition after the Gusev fight. Opportunities will open up and I will get much sharper and better. That is my only goal.”