By Chris Robinson
On Saturday night, inside of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, rising featherweight star Gary Russell Jr. (22-0, 13 KO’s) stayed on track with a dominating 10-round decision over Vyacheslav Gusev (20-3, 5 KO’s).
Russell was simply too fast and precise with his punches, as his methodical Russian opponent never found a way to break through or really make the fight competitive.
Always one to give a fair assessment of potential foes, recently-crowned WBO featherweight champion Mikey Garcia gave credit to Russell when asked of his performance.
“He looked good,” Garcia told me shortly after the fight. “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.”
Russell was born with rare gifts that you just don’t see in the normal pugilist, including some of the fastest hands in the business.
Garcia was asked how you fight and defeat a fighter with Russell’s traits and he didn’t seem to be too intimidated.
“You got to use what you have,” said the 24-year old champion. “You can either apply a lot of pressure or time him to catch him in an exchange.”
As interesting as a matchup as it is, the ongoing promotional feud between Top Rank, who oversees Garcia’s career, and Golden Boy Promotions, who has Russell in their stable, would likely prevent such a meeting from happening anytime soon.
A more realistic option for Garcia may be former two-division champion Juan Manuel Lopez, the talented Puerto Rican southpaw who is looking to restore the luster from his career that was taken with his two stoppage defeats to Orlando Salido in 2011 and 2012.
In a report by BoxingScene.com’s Jhonny Gonzalez, Lopez’s side expressed interest in a duel with Garcia while hoping that the champion would be willing to accept a catch-weight of 128 pounds.
“I’ll fight him, even at 130,” Garcia replied. “I’ll beat him with skills and technique.”
Asked if he felt that those two bruising wars with Salido took a lot out of Lopez, Garcia seemed unsure.
“I didn’t see his last fight so I don’t know how he looked,” Garcia stated. “He may need a fight or two to get the rust off.”