Featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. will follow up November’s first-round stoppage of Mexican Heriberto Ruiz with a matchup against Vietnam native Dat Nguyen on April 21. The fight will be on the undercard of a Showtime bout featuring Abner Mares vs. Eric Morel, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.
Russell (19-0, 11 knockouts) says that his brittle hand issues are behind him, which he demonstrated against Ruiz with a punishing, two-fisted body attack preceding 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.
Among the best things about the Ruiz victory is the fact that southpaw Russell’s hands didn’t hurt, and that’s been consistent with his current training, he said.
“Everything’s been good. My hands have been good. The training has been great. We’re really about to start kicking the camp into high gear now,” said Russell.
“I’m wrapping my hands very well and that’s been really good. We’re training with 20 ounce gloves. I’m having no problems whatsoever with injuries or with hitting anything. My hands are ready.”
Russell was set to return to the ring for the first time since the win over Ruiz on Feb. 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but that Showtime-televised card was scrapped — as was the welterweight rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto — when Berto suffered a biceps injury.
“I’ve been ready to get back in the ring. I’m ready to handle some business. I’m ready to make something exciting happen,” said Russell, who vows to turn in a show-stealing performance.
“I can’t wait. You know it, man, that’s my plan. I’m trying to look explosive. It’s the entertainment business. That’s part of my job, so I would just be doing my job.”
Russell believes that he can score a knockout against Nguyen (17-2, 6 KOs).
“You know, I don’t plan on going the entire 10 rounds. But the guy is really strong and I believe that he’s very durable,” said Russell. “He lacks a lot of speed, but he’s a straigt-forward fighter. So I think that he’s tailor-made for me.”
For the main event, Mares (23-0-1, 13 KOs) vacated his IBF belt in favor of rising in weight for a junior featherweight clash with the magazine’s No. 4-rated contender, Eric Morel (46-2, 23 KOs).
Mares earned the IBF title last August from Joseph Agbeko, and his only defense was a mandated return bout following the controversy over referee Russell Mora’s failure to penalize Mares for low blows in the first fight. Mares won the rematch by unanimous decision.
Mares giving up the belt opened the door for South Africa’s Vusi Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KOs) to face A.J. Banal (26-1-1, 19 KOs) of the Philippines for the vacant title.
JERMAIN TAYLOR RETURNS ON APRIL 20 AGAINST CALEB TRUAX
Former undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor will return to the ring for his second comeback fight against unbeaten Caleb Truax, of Osseo, Minn., on April 20. The bout will be televised on Showtime from Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., his promoter, Lou DiBella, confirmed on Tuesday.
A resident of Little Rock, Ark., Taylor (29-4-1, 18 KOs) will headline the triple-header “ShoBox: The New Generation” card against Truax (18-0-1, 10 KOs) after having ended a 26-month ring absence with an eighth-round stoppage of Baltimore’s Jessie Nicklow in December.
“Jermain needs the activity. It’s a step up over Jermain’s last opponent in the sense that Truax has a couple of good wins, and he’s never lost,” said DiBella of news that was first reported by ESPN.com. “So he’s getting into the ring with a kid who is extremely confident and who has never lost a fight.”
DiBella also said that southpaw junior middleweight contender Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) will be on the card against Ronald Hearns (26-2, 20 KOs). Lara is coming off July’s majority decision loss to Paul Williams, a bout most ringsiders thought Lara won.
“This is a big opportunity to make a big statement in 2012. As everybody has seen, Erislandy gave Paul Williams a hellouva fight. Some people think that he won the fight. Most people had him winning the fight. So if I go out there and handle my business, this will put me right back at the top of the 154 pound weight class, or, else, at 160,” said Hearns, who said that he is facing Lara at a catchweight between junior middleweight and middleweight.
“That makes my name hot again. I’m just training hard and getting my mind focused and there have been no injuries. I’m healthy and I’m strong. I’m ready to fight. I’ve been waiting for a long time for this type of opportunity where there are no distractions. No worries no concerns. Come April 20, I’ll be ready.”
Taylor, 33, was unanimously approved in September for a boxing license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after having pulled out of Showtime’s Super Six World Super Middleweight Classic following a 12th-round knockout loss to Germany’s Arthur Abraham in October of 2009.
Abraham was Taylor’s fourth loss in five fights, including three knockouts, and was his second consecutive loss by stoppage. Taylor received a CT Scan and an MRI as well as other testing in the days after the loss to Abraham, and was diagnosed with a concussion, short-term memory loss and bleeding on the brain.
In September’s re-licensing and reinstatement hearing, Taylor’s case was supported by the recommendation of Dr. Timothy J. Trainor, a commission consultant who “thoroughly reviewed the comprehensive medical records pertaining to combatant Jermain Taylor,” according to a letter written and submitted by Trainor.
Trainor indicated that Taylor’s “cerebral MRA and MRI are normal,” even as he referred to the fact that Taylor “has a history of a subdural hematoma following a boxing match in Germany” against Abraham.
“I thought that Jermain looked very good in his last fight, considering that he had been off for two and a half years. But I want him to feel really confident in there, and he needs rounds, and he needs to increase his level of competition,” said DiBella.
“And he needs to become more fluid and comfortable in the ring. I think that the last fight was a great first step, and I expect the next fight to be a great next step.”