Gary Russell Jr. gave up long ago on rationalizing why the other top featherweights refuse to get in the ring with him.
The long-reigning featherweight titlist would like to see someone else run with that baton.
“Just hold these guys accountable,” Russell insisted during a recent Zoom media conference call to otherwise discuss his upcoming title defense versus Philippines’ Mark Magsayo. “Don’t just say it when you’re doing the interviews with one another. Ask them the question why they’re not getting in the ring with Gary Russell Jr.
“The fans need to start boycotting some of these fights. Stop supporting some of these fights where they already know the outcome.”
Russell (31-1, 18KOs) returns to the ring January 22 to face Magsayo (23-0, 16KOs) in what will amazingly be his first fight since the pandemic. The near two-year inactive stretch is excessive even beyond the industry-wide joke of Russell being good for his annual title defense as he’s fought just once per year pre-pandemic since winning the WBC featherweight belt in March 2015.
A win over the unbeaten Magsayo will give Russell just his sixth successful title defense over a span of seven years, a footnote accompanying the distinction of serving as the sport’s longest-reigning current male titlist. A lot of that time has been spent pursuing notable fighters in and around the 126-pound division, though largely forced to settle for mandatory title defenses or fights simply with those willing to get in the ring.
“I take credit to Mark for taking this fight,” notes Russell, a 2008 U.S. Olympian and career-long featherweight. “I’m grateful I have a fellow competitor in Mark, who is willing to come forward and bring the best that he can. It’s good for you to feel as though you’re the best. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for those who watch it and good for the sport or your career in general. It’s refreshing to get a fighter willing to put it all on the line to be known as possible the best.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox