WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. is not pulling any punches discussing how feels about the Sunday exhibition between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Logan Paul -- or the participants headlining Showtime’s pay-per-view event at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
“I’m not a fan of Floyd Mayweather. I’m not a fan of Floyd Mayweather at all. I think [the fight] a mockery to the sport,” a candid Russell Jr. Fight Hype.
“It’s a lot of these fighters that put blood, sweat, and tears and their heart and soul into boxing to try and make something of themselves just for a YouTuber to come cut in line in front of them and possibly make more money than them. I can’t knock the hustle. I can’t knock the hustle. I’m a realist. As a fighter that participates in the sport, I personally don’t like it. I don’t think Floyd is at any risk. He's a real fighter.
“[Paul] is a YouTuber. Granted, he can get lucky and hit Floyd and hurt him, but the odds of that sh-- is crazy. I don't even care about the weight division. It won’t matter. Floyd Mayweather is a skilled fighter, and he’s going to bring that stuff in the ring with someone that has nothing to do, knows nothing about boxing.”
The 32-year-old Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs) went on to explain that he’s not a fan of the recent wave of announced exhibitions, regardless of the headliners.
“It waters the sport down,” he said. “They’re doing these exhibitions now, even with Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. I was all for that sh--, but then they said they can’t go for the knockout. I was like, ‘What the f---, this is boxing. This is a barbaric sport.’ I understand why a lot of fans don’t like it and disagree.
“Someone is going to get hurt, one of these YouTubers. The right people ain’t getting hurt. Somebody is going to get hurt, get knocked unconscious, or put in a coma because they got in the ring with a real fighter. They weren’t skilled, they signed a waiver to make a little money, and it’s going to come back to bite them in their a--.”
The Mayweather and Paul card will feature former NFL standout and wide receiver Chad Johnson also making his boxing debut, a development that reads like a Ringling Bros. act for Russel Jr.
“They’re turning the sport into a circus,” he said. “I love the sport I participate in. I’m one of the real soldiers on the battlefield. I understand the creativeness of still trying to make some money … a lot of people got into the sport of boxing because Floyd Mayweather was flashing his money and showing his cars, showing that if you really dedicate yourself and give it everything you’ve got, you can make something of yourself.
“To get to the point of your career where now you’re fighting YouTubers, and now it’s like, ‘What the f--- do we do now? Who do we follow now? … If I take an exhibition, somebody is going to get hurt. If I do an exhibition with a YouTuber; hopefully, there are no YouTubers out there that dislike me or whatever.
“If there’s a YouTuber that dislikes me and says they want to fight me, we can make some money. Once again, I’m not against the hustle, but I’m one of the ones that will hurt one of them. They’re going to sleep. They’re going to bed. I’m a real fighter. They’re going to learn real quick the reason they’re a YouTuber, and I’m a fighter. There’s a difference.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com