by David P. Greisman
Those who tune in to HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” on Dec. 7 probably won’t know who Lamar Russ is.
Russ, of course, is looking to change that.
Russ stepped in for the injured Willie Nelson and will face middleweight Matthew Macklin on the televised undercard, part of a tripleheader airing from Atlantic City that includes Glen Tapia vs. James Kirkland in the co-feature and Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko in the main event.
Russ is 14-0 (7 knockouts) as a pro, a member of Lou DiBella’s promotional stable, and has been a sparring partner to Gennady Golovkin three times and to Edwin Rodriguez. Russ debuted about four years ago after an amateur career that he said included more than 200 bouts, including losses to Fernando Guerrero and Shawn Porter in national tournaments.
He graduated in 2011 from Fayetteville (N.C.) State University with a degree in business administration. That explains his fighting only once in 2011, as he finished up his studies. And it also explains his nickname, “The Boxing Que” — a “Que” is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
Russ, who was born in Tallahassee, Fla., moved to Wilmington, N.C. when he was 9 and started boxing then. His son, Kamren, is 22 months old.
That’s a quick introduction. Russ provided much more information, as well as his thoughts on the Macklin bout and what he learned from training with Golovkin and Rodriguez, in a Nov. 24 conversation with BoxingScene.
BoxingScene.com: How would you describe your style as a boxer?
Russ: “I would say I’m a boxer slash fighter. I can transition to both. I’m not as good of a fighter as I am a boxer. I’m a great boxer to me. I still have a lot to learn. I’m a better boxer than I am a fighter, but I can fight also. I’m one of those guys, I’m an exciting fighter. I make guys sit up and watch the fight, where they keep their eyes glued.”
BoxingScene.com: You’re stepping in for an injured Willie Nelson against Matthew Macklin. It’s a big fight on HBO, but it’s a big fight on short notice.
Russ: “I got the call three weeks out [Note: it was reported on Nov. 12 that Russ would step in]. I’m taking a big fight with a top contender three weeks out, not because it’s HBO, but just because I can win this fight. Matthew Macklin is a great fighter. He’s a top 10 contender. He’s been in there with the best. But I’ve got the tools to beat him.
“I just came out of camp with Edwin Rodriguez. I’ve been in three camps with Gennady Golovkin. He’s like my big brother. I actually helped Gennady Golovkin get ready for Macklin when he fought him earlier this year. Macklin’s a good fighter, but I just feel like I got the skills to beat him. I know it’s going to be a war. I know what comes with this fight. But I’m willing to take that risk and show the world what I got.”
BoxingScene.com: I’m guessing you saw Golovkin’s quick knockout over Macklin on June 29. Do you see Macklin as being vulnerable or damaged, having seen what happened in the Golovkin fight?
Russ: “That plays a factor, but it doesn’t play a big factor. Because being in camp with Gennady Golovkin, he’s not a normal middleweight fighter. He’s one of the best right now, and for him to destroy Macklin in three rounds, that doesn’t surprise me. That doesn’t show how good of a fighter Macklin is when he’s fighting a top, top guy like that.
“I don’t say he’s vulnerable, because Gennady Golovkin is a hard puncher, you know. It doesn’t really show how good of a fighter Macklin is. It just shows that Macklin is not on Gennady Golovkin’s level. I rate Macklin as a good fighter. I’m a good fighter, too. I just happen to be 14-0. He just happens to have about twice as many fights as I have [Macklin is 29-5 with 20 knockouts]. I think we’re on the same level, if I’m not better.”
BoxingScene.com: A lot of people might see this as being a huge step up in competition for you, given what you’ve faced beforehand compared to what Macklin is now. What would you say to those people?
Russ: “Never underestimate no one. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I come to fight and I come to win. This is the fight that is going to wake everybody’s eyes up and let them know who I am in the world and in the boxing industry. It doesn’t bother me that they think that this is too fast of a step for me. Them thinking that gets me more hungry everyday I’m in the gym, everyday I look at myself in the mirror.
“I’m going to shock the world, do the same thing Muhammad Ali did. Not only Muhammad Ali, but other great fighters: Roy Jones. Mayweather. Terence Crawford. I give credit where credit’s due, and Terence Crawford shocked the world, too, on HBO. It’s just an opportunity to show the world: ‘I’m here. I’m a top competitor in the middleweight division.’ ”
BoxingScene.com: I know you took this fight on short notice, but I’m guessing you were already in the gym beforehand.
Russ: “Yeah, actually the week before I got the call, I had just gotten out of the camp with Edwin Rodriguez, getting him ready for Andre Ward. I was already in good shape.”
BoxingScene.com: What have you learned, either stylistically or about yourself, from the time you’ve spent in camp with guys like Golovkin and Edwin Rodriguez?
Russ: “I’ve learned that I have great strength, and I know how to use a lot of the things that I do have. One of the things about being in the gym with Gennady Golovkin, he’s one of those guys who has helped me define myself mentally and physically. Sparring with him, my defense has picked up a whole lot. My offense has picked up a whole lot. He’s given me the ambition and taught me how to push through when I’m tired, how to push through when I’m down, and give me confidence all over.
“The same thing with Edwin. He taught me how to keep pushing through, pushing through, pushing through. How to set things up. And those are good pro techniques. … That’s the greatest thing about being in camp with those guys. Everybody sees Gennady Golovkin and Edwin Rodriguez on TV and says, ‘Hey, those guys are the best, I probably can’t even compare, because they’re so good.’ But I get in camp with them and see how I do against them. I’m not an average fighter. I know that from the experience of being in the ring with those guys.”
BoxingScene.com: What does Golovkin hit like?
Russ: “Like a motherf***er, man. A lot of people ask me, and I get that all the time, ‘Is he the puncher that everybody says he is?’ He definitely is, man. I’ve been in the ring with him, and I know what it feels like. He’s one of those guys, he knows how to place his punches and he knows how to put that strength right there. I’ve seen him work over heavyweights, light heavyweights, super middleweights. I’ve seen him break down all the same, just like they were a middleweight. He’s definitely a top puncher. I call him the middleweight Mike Tyson.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want people to know?
Russ: “I just want the world to know to listen, and I want Matthew Macklin to know that I’m coming to fight and I’m coming to win. Boxing, I love the sport. Like I said, again, I’m just coming to fight and coming to win. I’ll have my son live there to watch me get the win. I’ll have my mom there to watch me. And I’ll have my youngest brother will be in the crowd watching me get the win also. I have the most important people watching me. That’s going to motivate me even more. I’m going to put on a good show and give people their money’s worth.”
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or on Amazon U.K. at http://amzn.to/11mYGZI . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]