Gary Russell vs. Leo Santa Cruz is Ordered By The WBC

By Keith Idec

The WBC ordered the best featherweight fight that can be made in boxing during its annual convention Wednesday in Kiev, Ukraine.

The Mexico City-based sanctioning organization announced that its featherweight champion, Gary Russell Jr., must make a mandatory defense of his title against fellow champion Leo Santa Cruz. Russell-Santa Cruz is one of the fights Premier Boxing Champions’ Al Haymon wants to make at some point in 2019, but the WBC’s order could expediate scheduling that 126-pound showdown and make it the next fight for each champion.

Russell (29-1, 17 KOs) made a mandatory defense of his 126-pound championship in his last bout. The southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, out-boxed previously undefeated Joseph Diaz Jr. (27-1, 14 KOs) in that 12-rounder May 19 at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.


The 30-year-old Russell fights infrequently, though, which limits his opportunities to make voluntary title defenses between meeting mandatory obligations. The 2008 Olympian has fought just three times since knocking out Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez in the fourth round to win the WBC featherweight crown in March 2015.

The 30-year-old Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) owns the WBA “super” featherweight title and thus isn’t ranked among the WBC’s top 40 featherweight contenders. In his most recent bout, the Rosemead, California, native beat Abner Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 12-round rematch June 9 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

As the WBA’s world featherweight champion, Mares was the mandatory challenger for Santa Cruz’s crown.

The Philippines’ Mark Magsayo (18-0, 13 KOs) is the WBC’s No. 1 contender for Russell’s title.

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

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Deontay Wilder on 12-09-2018

Great fight, let's go Haymon! Maybe Fury vs. Wilder II undercard?

Comment by Michael1437 on 10-04-2018

This would be a great fight, although Russell has looked great recently.

Comment by deanrw on 10-04-2018

I like both guys and I'll let them predict the winner. Here is a little tidbit of how nice of a guy Leo is. Travis Gotti made a video a couple years ago claiming Leo ignored him during an interview…

Comment by 5burowz on 10-04-2018

Great, pick-em fight, with a lot of punches thrown.

Comment by markther on 10-04-2018

[QUOTE=KTFOKING;19164740]Definitely don't think he folded against Diaz. It was a tough fight through six and then GRJ kind of took over. So don't think you can say he folded vs Diaz. As for Lomachenko, to me GRJ got more schooled…

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