If I Were a Boxing Matchmaker: Gary Russell Jr.

My say

Good Evening, thanks for tuning in again. Today I’d like to discuss potential matchups for Gary Russell Jr.

Gary Russell Jr. 30-1 (18 KOs)

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Gary Russell Jr. is one of the most naturally skilled boxers in the sport today. He has superior hand speed with fair punching power to accommodate it. Russell could go down as one of the most talented boxers who never maximized his potential. This former amateur standout from our country’s capitol represented the states well in the unpaid rankings, being named the 2005 USA Boxing Athlete of the Year, winning U.S. National Championships and Golden Gloves titles, yet he has not represented our country as well in the pro ranks.

The man has fought good contenders or former contenders in the featherweight division for many years, such as Jhonny Gonzalez, Patrick Hyland, Oscar Escandon, Joseph Diaz and Kiko Martinez. Although he is an elite level fighter, he has rarely fought elite competition. For the past 5 years Russell has fought once a year, but has not fought a top-5 or better featherweight in that time frame. This is beyond me why this would be the case. Even with common promotional ties to a few of the top 126-pounders. Still, nothing.

What is going on here? If there were no promotional bridges to cross, there would obviously be more options, such as “unifying” 126. Maybe even moving up to 130 to make an attempt to unify that division. Even possibly moving up to 135 to get a rematch with Vasiliy Lomachenko. However, I can’t even make a legitimate excuse as to why Mister Gary Russell has not at least fought the top guy at 126 to start. Which is exactly where I am going to start, because it needs to happen!

#1 Matchup: Leo Santa Cruz 36-1-1 (19 KOs)

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Based off of resume, I would say possibly not, but based off of talent, Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell are the number one and number two featherweights right now, which is exactly why this has to happen sooner than later. These are the bouts that the sport needs in order for it to become more successful. This would prove who is the number one featherweight at this moment and in addition, it is also a great matchup. Playing cat and mouse like the old cartoon Tom & Jerry. Gary Russell is the mouse, who is the better boxer-mover and has the clear advantage in hand speed. He will have the advantage for the first portion of the fight, but keep in mind that Santa Cruz is the pressure fighter who would continue to put combinations together and has the chin to take Russell’s shots. Like Tom the cat, he will not go away until he gets the mouse. The burning question here is can “Tom” (Leo Santa Cruz) get to “Jerry” (Gary Russell) over the course of the fight, or will Russell be able to box and move all night?

#2 Matchup: Guillermo Rigondeaux 18-1 (12 KOs)

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This would be a legacy match. Guillermo Rigondeaux is a phenomenal talent, who has been avoided for years. This would give Rigondeaux an opportunity to prove that he is exactly what people have thought he was for many years, one of the best. This would give Russell an opportunity to prove that he is one of the best at 126 over the past decade. Win or lose, Rigondeaux is a great name to have on your resume. This might not be the most fun festive matchup, but it would be a great chess match. Both men are engraved with superb boxing abilities. Who would prove to be superior? This can certainly be a bout that would be appreciated by boxing guru’s around the globe.

#3 Matchup: Josh Warrington 28-0 (6 KOs)

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The Leeds warrior is a British star on the rise. Boy, do the Brits sure get into these hometown fighters who have a strong devotion to local soccer clubs. I got to admit, I love it. The atmosphere is phenomenal and the fans are amazing. This would be no different, as the Brit fans travel well. This would provide some clarity of who the top dogs are at featherweight. Again, I don’t care about the “titles”, so I won’t mention who holds which, but these are two of the more proven featherweights right now. If Russell and Santa Cruz clear up the number one spot, Warrington can get this opportunity to prove he is the best afterwards. However, if Santa Cruz and Russell can’t come to terms, why not make this happen in the meantime?

Warrington is another pressure fighter that could make this battle interesting. Again, Russell would be the favorite when it comes to boxing skills, but Warrington doesn’t seem to quit. Can that pressure be enough to overwhelm Gary? New York or D.C. could be a great spot for this meeting. A hometown crowd for Gary Russell could be muffled by a traveling Brit “band”.

#4 Matchup: Carl Frampton 26-2 (15 KOs)

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Okay, “technically” in order for Russell to unify all titles, he would need to defeat Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA title, defeat Josh Warrington for the IBF title and defeat Oscar Valdez for the WBO title… blah blah blah. If it weren’t for these silly titles, there would be one Champion per division and I honestly don’t see Oscar Valdez as a champion. He is a legit top contender who can make for some good quality scraps at 126, however, I don’t think that Oscar Valdez is a more worthy opponent than Carl Frampton. At least not yet, but those two can battle it out first and then this can change if Valdez could win. Frampton certainly has a more proven resume of the two, with one win and one loss to Leo Santa Cruz, a win over future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire and a recent loss to Josh Warrington. That’s how I base the matchups: Who is more deserving to prove that they are the best? Boston or New York could be a good landing spot for this, with the bout still taking place close enough to Russell’s home for his fans to travel, yet being in a populous Irish town for Frampton’s crowd to stagger the noise.

#5 Matchup: Gervonta Davis 21-0 (20 KOs)

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“Maryland Madness”. Again, Gary Russell could go after Oscar Valdez here, or if he moved up to 130, he could go after Tevin Farmer or Miguel Berchelt, which I wouldn’t be upset about any of those fights. Gervonta Davis could move up to 135 and that would hinder this match, but because he is still at 130, this is attainable. If Davis would just march forward and get on with the Berchelt scrap to prove who is the best at 130, Russell can move up to take the risk and go after the most challenging opponent at 130. Tank is a solid boxer who has a punch to turn the lights out in an instant. Gary’s speed will give Gervonta some major complications, but does Mister Russell have enough tank armor and fire power to keep the M1 Abrams from blowing him away?

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