By Chris Robinson
On Saturday night, inside of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, featherweight prospect/contender Gary Russell Jr. kept his unbeaten record intact, winning a dominant 10-round decision over Russia’s Vyacheslav Gusev to improve to 22-0 with 13 knockouts.
Russell’s speed and crisp punching easily carried the day for him, as the 24-year old Washington, D.C. native now eyes bigger bounty at 126 pounds.
Shortly after the fight, I reached out to recently-crowned WBO featherweight champion Mikey Garcia, who offered up his assessment of Russell’s performance.
“He looked good,” Garcia said of Russell. “Used his right a lot; jab and right hooks. [He] had speed. He did the adjustments that were needed after he hurt his hand. He did what he needed to do to win.”
Fighting someone with Russell’s natural gifts is far from an easy task but Garcia revealed how to beat the talented southpaw.
“You got to use what you have,” Garcia stated. “You can either apply a lot of pressure or time him to catch him in an exchange.”
Catching up with Russell roughly a few hours after his victory, I informed him of Garcia’s opinion of the best way to fight him.
Russell’s response seemed to be dismissive towards the new titleholder.
“I’ve never really watched him fight,” Russell claimed of Garcia. “I’m being so honest. I never really watched him fight.
“I heard about what happened with Salido, but we never really watched him fight,” Russell mentioned, bringing up Garcia’s technical-decision victory over Orlando Salido in January that saw their fight stopped after eight round following a broken nose from Mikey that was caused by an accidental head butt.
Even if Russell was more familiar with Garcia, the fact that the two fighters are aligned with promoters, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, who are feuding with one another seems to make the match a longshot at happening anytime soon.
A more realistic option for Russell could be the winner of the May 4th clash between WBC champion Daniel Ponce De Leon and Abner Mares, who is rising up in weight in an effort to collect his third title in as many divisions.
Russell again seems less than enthused about both participants but gives a clear edge to the champion.
“Whatever they want to do, they can do their thing,” Russell claimed. “Mares, he’s too small. Coming up in weight, too small.”