As boxing’s longest reigning champion, Gary Russell Jr. has managed to make the most of his time in the ring. At 33 years old, the WBC featherweight champion is still waiting to fight the best. Set to defend his title for the sixth time, Russell is ready to prove that he is still a superior fighter.
Russell will fight another mandatory challenger, Mark Magsayo, on Saturday, January 22. It will be his first fight since 2020, a very different schedule compared to Russell’s usual yearly campaign. There are some reasons for the interruption of the activity.
In recent months, Russell has had to deal with the amputation of his father’s left foot due to complications from type 2 diabetes. He is also dealing with a “minor injury” that could affect him. Russell dedicates the fight to his father, who was able to attend the weigh-ins, and to his brother Gary “Boosa” Russell, who died of a heart attack in December 2020.
Russell is using everything that has happened in his life as motivation.
“I use it all for fuel,” Russell told Sporting News before their fight. “I like to feed myself to progress. By any means necessary. We’re the kind of people that nothing comes easy to, so we don’t have any complaints or whining. I use all the information and everything that happens, I use it as fuel. “
Russell made his professional debut in 2009, four years after winning a Golden Gloves championship and a bronze medal at the World Championships. Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) suffered his only loss in 2014 against Vasiliy Lomachenko. Since then, he has won seven in a row, including a win over Jhonny Gonzalez for the WBC featherweight title. In his last fight, he defeated Tugstsogt Nyambayar by unanimous decision to retain the title.
The champion has been very vocal about who he wants to face. Some time ago it was Leo Santa Cruz and Emanuel Navarrete. Russell has also shown interest in lightweight champions. The right fight is something he still craves.
“I still want these matchups that I’ve been asking for,” Russell said. “I can’t force these guys to get in the ring with me. All I can do is focus on the task at hand. I’ve prepared myself as best I can to focus on whatever my opponent can bring. I would love to.” compete against these guys I’ve been asking for.
On his way into the ring at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ will be Magsayo, a WBO International Featherweight Champion. Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) fought twice in 2021; the second fight was a victory over Julio Ceja in August. Magsayo has reach (68-64) and height (5-6 over 5-4) advantages over Russell.
A protégé of Manny Pacquiao, Magsayo wants to surprise the world. Russell is more than up to the challenge.
“None of that is uncharted territory for me,” Russell said of Magsayo’s upside. “I don’t think he’s taking me lightly at all. I think Magsayo understands the type of guy he’s getting into the ring with, and I think he’ll compete to the best of his ability. He knows what it’s like to get in there with an animal.” .
If you’re a fan of Russell, he encourages you to throw some punches in the air. They will not go in vain, he says, as he will catch them and use them. For him, fight night is something that drives him forward, no matter what’s going on.