ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – A day doesn’t pass when Gary Russell Jr. doesn’t think a lot about his late younger brother, Gary “Boosa” Russell.

“Boosa” was just 25 when he died from a heart attack in December 2020. Gary Russell Jr. will fight for the first time Saturday night since his brother’s death 13 months ago.

Honoring his brother’s memory has been one of the WBC featherweight champion’s primary motivations throughout this training camp for a mandated title defense against the Philippines’ Mark Magsayo at Borgata Event Center (Showtime; 9 p.m. ET).

“I wish I had more time with my younger brother,” Gary Russell Jr. stated during a virtual press conference recently. “Unfortunately, I can’t get it back. You know, all I can do is allow him to live through me at this point by continuing to be the best that I can possibly be.”

“Boosa” Russell died outside of a friend’s house on the very same street where Gary Russell Jr. owns multiple properties and their parents live. That street in Capitol Heights, Maryland, was renamed two months after his death from Omaha Street to Boosa Street.

“A lot of times people like to put [memorials] on a shirt or something like that,” Gary Russell Jr. told “And I felt that was beneath my younger brother. I refused to have my younger brother just on a shirt, to be remembered by a shirt.”

It has taken Gary Russell Jr., boxing’s longest-reigning champion, more than a year to feel “somewhat at ease” when the 33-year-old champion drives down the street now named after his late brother.

“When I’m at my parents’ house, it does something to me just to be on the street,” Gary Russell Jr. said. “So, to be able to go there now and know that everyone on the street have to change their IDs, everything else, the mail that’s coming in, because it has my younger brother’s nickname on it, it’s refreshing.”

Gary “Boosa” Russell was the second of Gary Russell Jr.’s brothers to die young. Devaun Drayton, a promising boxer who was one of Gary Russell Sr.’s 11 children, was just 17 years old when he was murdered in March 2004 in Washington, D.C., their hometown.

Though their fighting family has grown accustomed to boxing through tragedy, it was particularly difficult for Gary Antonio Russell to box only 10 days after “Boosa’s” death.

He defeated Dominican veteran Juan Carlos Payano by technical decision in a fight Showtime televised only 10 days after “Boosa” suddenly died. Gary Russell Jr. still applauds the resolve the bantamweight contender displayed by going through with the Payano bout.

“Gary Antonio, he held it together the entire time,” Gary Russell Jr. said. “Man, mental toughness. I’m a firm believer in that energy doesn’t go anywhere. I believe that energy is transferable. When my brother passed, Antonio competed, and I didn’t know that he was actually gonna be able to compete. And he said, ‘You know, bruh, I wanna fight. … This is the only thing that keeps me sane at this point.’ You know, him going to the gym, working out, having to spar and stuff somewhat kept him mentally rooted. And he competed.

“And right after – he held it together all the way up until they announced him as the winner. And he came back to the corner, and he just broke down, crying. He just put his head in my shoulder, you know, I just held him and he was just crying and crying and crying, and he was telling me how much he misses his brother. You know, so it was mean. 2021 was a vicious year, man. We gotta make up for it in 2022.”

That process begins for the Russell family Saturday night at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

When Russell squares off against Magsayo, his father/trainer, Gary Russell Sr., will work his son’s corner and shout instructions from the venue floor because his left foot was amputated last month due to complications from type 2 diabetes. Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs) acknowledged during the aforementioned virtual press conference that he essentially trained himself during a recently completed training camp due to his father’s long hospital stay.

Their father’s health has been at the forefront of Gary Russell Jr.’s mind while preparing to box Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs). He has used “Boosa’s” death as inspiration, though, while getting through much of his training camp without his father in the gym.

“I’m still dealing with it,” Gary Russell Jr. said. “I’m still coping with it. And once again, I use it as fuel, I use it as motivation. And I know my brother’s with me. Energy is transferable, so hand me some of that energy because I’m gonna need it.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.