GARY RUSSELL JR.
Best night of pro career: Effortlessly stopped grizzled veteran Mauricio Pastrana in the first round of a Fight Night Club main event in July. The 37-year-old former 108- and 112-pound titleholder had only won two of his last 10 bouts going into the fight with Russell but one of the cagey Panamanian’s victories was an eighth-round TKO of contender Antonio Escalante. And two of Pastrana’s recent losses were distance fights to undefeated featherweight prospects Matt Remillard and Victor Fonseca, which puts Russell’s power-punching accuracy in perspective.
Worst night of pro career: Struggled with Noe Lopez Jr. on his way to scoring a unanimous four-round decision over the young journeyman in his fifth pro fight last October. The competent southpaw from Mexico only won one round (the third) on all three official scorecards but he rocked Russell in that round. Ringside observers report that the fight was closely contested and could have been a draw. Lopez is the last fighter to go the distance with Russell.
Next fight: Takes on tough Guadalupe DeLeon (8-11, 4 KOs) in a six-round Fight Night Club main event on Thursday at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The fight will be televised on Fox Sports Net (tape delayed) and streamed live on RingTV.com and Ustream.com. DeLeon is a 31-year-old journeyman, but the native of Mission, Texas is known for giving prospects a stern test. DeLeon was competitive in distance losses to featherweight prospects Charles Huerta and Ronny Rios this year and he upset Derrick Wilson last December. He might be the first fighter since Noe Lopez to go more than three rounds with Russell.
Why he’s a prospect: Russell is a decorated amateur champion gifted with phenomenal speed and considerable power, however the 2008 U.S. Olympian doesn’t solely rely on his explosive athleticism to overwhelm opponents. The well-schooled southpaw utilizes good footwork and a well-timed jab to set up his precise power punches. Despite his recent quickie KO streak (seven in a row, five in the first round), Russell is not in a rush to stop his opponents. He has the patience and demeanor of a more mature and experienced fighter.
Why he’s a suspect: Russell is small even by featherweight standards. His 61-inch (155 cm) wingspan is by far the shortest reach of any 126-pound prospect. Russell may have a less-than-reliable chin as the Lopez fight could have hinted at.
Story lines: Russell, the most talented of four boxing brothers, began turning heads in the U.S. amateur scene before his 16th birthday. He received Athlete of the Year recognition from USA Boxing in 2005 for winning both the U.S. Championships and National Golden Gloves titles at the age of 16 and then capping the year with a bronze medal at the World Amateur Championships shortly after his 17th birthday. Russell repeated as U.S. Champion in 2006 and won the 2007 U.S. Olympic Trials despite chronic hand injuries and competing in a very deep 119-pound field that included current pro prospects such as Roberto Marroquin (16-0), Ronny Rios (12-0), Rico Ramos (17-0), Jorge Diaz (14-0) and Sammy DiPace (7-0). He was one of the few American boxers who was favored to medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. However, Russell’s Olympic dreams were shattered when he collapsed in his hotel room, apparently dehydrated from trying to shed weight, the morning of the weigh-in for his 119-pound first-round match. Russell was disqualified for not making weight (and for safety reasons) and never competed in the Beijing Games. However, the disappointing end to Russell’s storied amateur career is being erased with his professional success. The Washington, D.C. native, who looks stronger than ever competing at featherweight, signed with influential manager Al Haymon in December and has his pick of the top American promoters whenever he decides to sign an exclusive promotional deal.
Jan. 16 Antonio Reyes TKO 3
Jan. 30 David Orosco Cano TKO 1