By: Hans Themistode
WBC Featherweight champion, Gary Russell Jr (29-1) will make his annual appearance in the ring this coming Saturday night on March 18th, when he takes on former champion Kiko Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KOs). Their contest will be taking place at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Martinez hasn’t held a world title in over five years, he also hasn’t faced anyone of note since a 2017 majority loss to Josh Warrington. This matchup is widely regarded as a mismatch. Although Martinez is just 33 years of age, his fight against Russell will be the 50th of his long career. Since a 2014 loss at the hands of Vasiliy Lomachenko back in 2014, Russell has been nothing short of dominant. He has reeled off five straight wins with three of those victories coming via stoppage.
The problem for Russell is not his talent, but it is his activity level. He has fought just once a year since 2015. High level professional fighters aren’t known for having a rigorous fight schedule. Most step inside of the ring two or three times during a calendar year. Russell’s lack of fights over the years is alarming. If it was up to the current WBC champion he would be much more active. So who exactly is to blame for his lack of activity?
“We have to get one of these fighters to get in the ring. People keep asking why do I compete once a year? It’s not because of me, it’s because none of these fighters are willing to get in the ring and compete against me. None of these champions want to get in the ring with me.”
Russell is a tremendous fighter. He is mostly regarded as possessing the fastest hands in all of boxing. In terms of who exactly are these other champions that don’t want to face him inside of the squared circle, Russell didn’t mince words.
“I wanted Leo Santa Cruz, I wanted Carl Frampton when he was a champion. I want everyone. It seems like I will never get the Cruz fight.”
The frustrations for Russell have seemed to reach their breaking point. The current belt holder has a plan if he doesn’t get the unification bouts that he desires.
“After this Kiko Martinez fight, if I don’t immediately get Leo Santa Cruz then I am vacating my title and I will be moving up to challenge Miguel Berchelt for his WBC title. From there hopefully I can land the Gervonta Davis fight because that is a fight I want as well.”
It sounds as though Russell has his eyes set on bigger and better things going forward. Whether it is a unification fight at 126 or a host of new challenges at 130. The first step however, he must get past the rugged and battle tested veteran Kiko Martinez. According to Russell, don’t expect this contest to go the distance.
“I can’t predict how this fight will go exactly but I don’t think it will last all 12 rounds. I just don’t believe that this guy has the skillset to last all 12 rounds with me.”