By Kenneth Friedman: WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. says he’s about given up on getting a unification fight against WBA 126-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz, and he says he’s going to move up to 130 to go after champions Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Miguel Berchelt. Russell Jr. states that he would like to fight Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton at featherweight, but he doesn’t think either of them will take then fight with him.
(Photo credit: Sean Michael Ham/Mayweather Promotions)
Russell Jr. will be defending his WBC title this Saturday night against #3 WBC Kiko Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KOs) in the co-feature bout on the Deontay Wilder vs. Dominic Breazeale card on Premier Boxing Champions on Showtime at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The action begins at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
Russell Jr. wants Tank Davis to face him
“Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis, I’m on your ass. Leo Santa Cruz, I’m on your ass,” Russell Jr. said. “I’m keeping my foot on their necks. Baltimore, you’re supposed to be known for all the gangsters. He’s [Gervonta] making you look bad. I’m talking about Tank. He’s making you look like clowns. You might want to tell him to step up. Tell him to come see me, and stop letting Floyd [Mayweather] control his career and treating like he’s a fragile package on Amazon. People ask me why I’m competing once a year. It’s not because of me. It’s because they’re not willing to get into the ring with me. I have to defend my title once a year anyway. All of those guys don’t want to step into the ring. I wanted Leo Santa Cruz. I wanted Carl Frampton. I want any of those other guys are are world champions. I want Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis,” Russell Jr. said.
Russell Jr. needs to move up already and go after the likes of Berchelt and Gervonta if he’s serious about wanting to them. After 10 years as a pro, it would seem obvious by this point that Russell won’t be getting a fight against Frampton and Santa Cruz. There’s no point in Russell waiting around for those guys. If they wanted to fight Russell Jr., they woud have done so by now. At least moving up to 130 will give Russell a shot at getting fights against Berchelt, Davis, Tevin Farmer, Andrew Cancio and Vasiliy Lomachenko. Russell Jr. lost to Lomachenko in 2014. Russell Jr. says he wasn’t 100 percent for that fight. Once Lomachenko moves back down to super featherweight, there’s no reason why he and Russell shouldn’t face each other in a rematch. Berchelt should be Russell’s first target, because he’s already at 130, and he holds the WBC title. If Russell can beat Berchelt, then Top Rank would likely want to put Lomachenko back in with him.
Time for Russell Jr. to move to 130
“I definitely plan on moving up. The reason I’ve been at 126 for so long is because they’ve been promising me Leo Santa Cruz,” Russell Jr. said. “They’ve been dangling him. The WBC made him the mandatory challenger not too long ago [Santa Cruz]. I’ve been sitting at 126 waiting for Leo Santa Cruz. It seems like that fights not going to happen. We’re been trying to get the fight. They made him the mandatory. Instead of him fighting me, he fought some guy I fought a long time ago. I’m tired of waiting for these guys. If not, I’ll relinquish my title and move up to challenge Berchelt. He has the WBC belt at 130. I’ll move forward. The skies the limit,” Russell Jr. said.
Gary’s fight this Saturday against Kiko is a disappointment. There are better fighters in the featherweight division than the 33-year-old Martinez, who has been beaten in recent years by Frampton, Scott Quigg and Josh Warrington. Russell Jr. gains nothing in beating Kiko. The casual Boxing fans in the U.S don’t care about this fight at all, which is why Russell was being asked questions by the Boxing media about other fighters rather than his opponent for Saturday Martinez. Russell Jr. needs to take that as a hint that the fans are tired of seeing him fight once a year against lesser guys. Martinez is someone that shouldn’t have been considered by Russell Jr. Of course, if Russell Jr. is right about the top fighters in the 126-pound division not wanting to fight him, then it would make sense for him to fight Martinez. But this is still a poor opponent given how many times he’s been beaten during his career.
Russell Jr. is too talented for his own good right now, and he’s going to have to move up in weight to find guys that will want to fight him. This is the way for fighters. If they’re too dominant and aren’t major stars, then the talented fighters don’t see it as worthwhile to face them.
Gary expects to knockout Martinez
“I don’t see the fight going the distance,” Russell said about his fight against Martinez. “If he’s good enough to stay in there for 12 rounds, then he’ll stay in there for 12 rounds. If not, he’s going to go to sleep early,” Russell Jr. said about Kiko Martinez.
It’s going to be a disappointment if Russell Jr. doesn’t stop Martinez. Frampton, Quigg and Santa Cruz all knocked Kiko out. Quigg stopped Martinez in the second round in 2015. Santa Cruz halted him in the fifth round in 2016. If Russell Jr. wants to be seen in the same light as those two fighters, he’s going to need to be able to knockout Martinez as well. The earlier the better. Martinez is going to come right at Russell Jr. trying to knock him out on Saturday. There’s no mystery about what the Spanish fighter Martinez will be attempting to do. Martinez ins coming into the fight off of a win over Marc Vidal. His confidence will be high as it can be. Martinez is obviously the much slower fighter of the two, but he’s got the power to win this fight, and he’s the more active fighter. Russell Jr. only fights once a year, and he might have some ring rust on him.