Gary Russell Jr. isn’t seeking sympathy, but the WBC featherweight champion was brutally honest Tuesday about his abnormal training camp for his upcoming title defense against Mark Magsayo.
His father and lifelong head trainer, Gary Russell Sr., had one of his feet amputated last month due to complications from type 2 diabetes. Russell Sr., 62, has trained Russell Jr. and the rest of his sons throughout their amateur and pro careers, but he has been unable to attend most of Russell Jr.’s training sessions in suburban Washington, D.C., for the Magsayo match.
Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) will end nearly a two-year layoff when he makes another mandated defense of his 126-pound championship against the Philippines’ Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) on January 22 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Showtime will televise Russell-Magsayo as the main event of a three-bout broadcast from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
“Camp has been hectic, man,” Russell Jr. said during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “It’s been a lot going on. You know, pops, pops, he been dealing with amputation. He got his foot amputated. He’s my coach as well as my dad. I’ve been somewhat training myself. And then my father, his health isn’t the best, so he’s getting in the gym as much as possible. But we grinding, man. We ready. No complaints, no whining. We gonna get to it.”
Russell Sr. tried his best to monitor his son’s training sessions on his phone while he was hospitalized in November and December, and more recently from home. He has been able to get to the gym more recently and Russell Jr. expects his father to at least attend his fight a week from Saturday night.
It is likely, though, that Russell Jr.’s younger brothers – bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell and junior welterweight prospect Gary Antuanne Russell – will work his corner, along with Rodrigo Mosquera, who regularly works his corner alongside Russell Sr.
“My brothers will definitely work the corner,” Russell Jr. explained. “Rodrigo Mosquera, he’s always been a good guy. He always help work our corner with me as well. My father, he’s a warrior at heart. He’s a warrior at heart. He’s supposed to be going back to the hospital to get checked out. He’s gotta get some stuff done, but he’s decided that he’s not gonna get it done until after the conclusion of this fight. He felt like he missed enough time in the training camp, and he wants to dedicate the rest of whatever he do have to me and to the rest of this camp. You know, I’m grateful for that. It means a lot to me. And once again, we use it all as fuel.”
The 33-year-old Russell Jr., of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will fight for the first time since he out-classed Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar (12-2, 9 KOs) in their 12-rounder in February 2020. The left-handed Russell, who has lost only to three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs), defeated Nyambayar by unanimous decision at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.