The future of Gary Russell Jr. is still very much in the air. For the former WBC featherweight champ, his recent run of inactivity far surpasses the norm for him.

Like clockwork, roughly once a year for more than half a decade he’s prepared himself for battle. And, more times than not, he’s come out on the winning end. His showdown against Mark Magsayo in January of 2022, however, didn’t go as expected.

A right shoulder injury on the night forced Russell to finish things out with essentially one hand. Although he would go on to lose, Russell was more so worried about when, or if, he would be able to return. While he was unsure, Russell was willing to try.

During those mundane and repetitive rehab days, the Maryland native needed something to help the time go by. While he isn’t the most dedicated watcher of the sport, he found himself paying close attention to Naoya Inoue.

The killer instinct, the familiar hand speed, and the ruthless aggression has made Russell somewhat of a fan. Although he’s normally a hard critic, even Russell had to admit that Inoue is a special talent.

“He’s the real deal,” Russell told

Unfortunately for Stephen Fulton, he found out just how good Inoue is. The Philly star kindly met Inoue at the super bantamweight door. His WBO and WBC titles were laced across his shoulders as his undefeated aura surrounded him.

Effortlessly, Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) pushed him aside, ripping his championship belts away before sending him back stateside.

Admittedly, Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) was pulling for his fellow American. But after watching Inoue continue his dominance, he’s come to a few conclusions. For one, Inoue is who they say he is, a pound-for-pound star and generational talent. Secondly, only four measly pounds separate them on the scales.

The mere thought of facing someone as good as Inoue makes the hairs on the back of Russell’s neck stand straight up.

Initially, the now 35-year-old revealed that a move up in weight was needed at this stage in his career. But while it wouldn’t be easy to protract his 126-pound stay, if enough zeros were attached to the end of his paycheck, Russell would be willing to acquiesce.

“If the money was right? F--- yeah. He’s somebody that I would like to fight.”