Brittle hands had been a problem for Gary Russell Jr. until his last fight, when the unbeaten southpaw featherweight prospect took just over two minutes to dispose of Mexican Heriberto Ruiz in the first round in November.
Russell blasted home a left to the body, followed by a right hook to the other side of Ruiz’s torso and then a perfeclty executed, crunching hook to the jaw that planted his foe on the canvas for good.
Referee Randy Jarvis reached the count of five and then stopped.
“I had been training hard in the gym. You know, I’ve had hand injuries my entire career,” said Russell, who fought six times over the course of last year. “But that was the first time that I really fought where I didn’t have any hand problems during my entire camp. So I took care of my hands really good.”
Among the best things about the Ruiz victory is the fact that Russell’s hands didn’t hurt.
“In that last fight, I was able to actually throw things together like I actually wanted to. I was able to put power into my punches the way that I wanted to,” said Russell (19-0, 11 knockouts), of Captol Heights, Md. “I had a great camp and we came prepared and we knew that my speed and my power would definitely play a factor. I just felt good.”
Russell will return to the ring for the first time since then on Feb. 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he will be matched opposite Vietnam native Dat Nguyen in a Showtime-televised undercard bout to the welterweight rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto , Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told RingTV.com on Thursday.
The main event features RING No. 3-rated Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) and RING No. 4-rated Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) taking center stage.
Russell and Nguyen (17-2, 6 KOs), of Vero Beach, Fla., were set to face each other in October before Nguyen pulled out of the fight. Instead, Russell, THE RING’s Prospect of the Year for 2011, scored the first-round stoppage of Ruiz.
Given that Russell is taking better care of his hands, that could be bad news for Nguyen.
“I’ve been using these gloves called Protex 3s, which is a big factor and a big plus as far as my sparring gloves and my bag gloves and everyting. Protex 3s, man, they offer more cushion for my hands and they’re for guys who have hand injuries, and they’ve worked perfectly. They’ve given me the chance to actually work on what I want to work on and to still be effective,” said Russell.
“So everything is better, as far as the way that I wrap my hands during my training. The way that I allow my hands a chance to rest. The change in gloves also played a big role in the condition of my hands. I feel good, no hand injuries. This has been one of the best training camps that I’ve ever been in so far.”
Nguyen is coming off June’s 10-round, unanimous decision loss to Puerto Rico’s Luis Del Valle (15-0, 11 KOs), ending his run of six consecutive wins.
“He’s a straight forward fighter, and [ex-titleholder] Buddy McGirt trains him. He was a force to be reckoned with earlier in his career and he fights with high intensity. He’s averaging probably about 100 punches a round or so. He keeps the constant pressure on,” said Russell.
“He’s kind of slow on his feet, and he’s not really a big puncher. But his punch out-put kind of wears guys down down the stretch. But we’re prepared. I’ve been up to about 13 rounds sparring in the gym, so we’re ready and we’re feeling strong. We’re in the entertainment business, and I plan on entertaining my fans to the best of my ability. We’re good to go.”
Photos by Craig Bennett, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org