Gary Antuanne Russell is aiming to win his first title, even if it is an interim title, in honor of his late father and coach, Gary Russell Sr.

Russell will face undefeated former WBA junior welterweight titleholder Alberto Puello for the interim WBC junior welterweight title on June 15 as part of the Gervonta Davis-Frank Martin pay-per-view undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Russell (17-0, 17 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw now cornered by his older brother and former featherweight titleholder, Gary Russell Jr., has stopped veteran former titlists such as Viktor Postol and Rances Barthelemy during his rise through the ranks. His father, Gary Sr., passed away on May 23, 2022, from Type 2 diabetes. Russell only fought two times since. 

“I know my dad would tell me to hit and not get hit, keep your hands high, don’t relax,” Russell said. “Right now, he’s here in spirit, and I will spontaneously hear certain things that he’d say to me. I want to honor his name and make sure that all he worked for does not go in vain.”

“I love the bright lights. It’s part of my life. It’s really second nature. This is my world now. At this point, I just want to excel.”

The fight carries significant stakes beyond being an interim title fight. The winner will be in position to challenge for what comes next for the WBC title. Despite losing a majority decision to Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney retained the WBC junior welterweight title as Garcia failed to make weight. Sandor Martin has been ordered to face Haney next, but the winner of this bout would be in line for whoever holds the belt afterward. The undefeated Russell wants to "earn his spot" atop the division. A win would allow for a future fight with the WBC outright champion.

“I want to bring boxing back to its natural state,” Russell said. “I want to climb the ladder and fight who I’m supposed to. I want to fight the guys with great credentials.”

His opponent, Puello (22-0, 10 KOs), is also undefeated but not known for power. Puello, 29, lost his title due to a drug-test failure for Clomiphene. He returned after 16 months away from the ring against Ector Madera in December, winning a ten-round unanimous decision.

“My focus is so locked in right now. It’s hard for me to say he’s got a chance, not to be disrespectful,” Russell said. “My father always said there are three types of fighters: those who need it, those who want it, and those who like it. And they all bring a different level of hunger. I’m all three of them, but instead of liking it, I love it.”