By: Hans Themistode
The eye-catching hand speed, underrated punching power, and sublime skills have made Gary Russell Jr. a fan favorite in the ring. It’s also made him completely maddening outside of it.
From 2015-2020, Russell Jr. has stepped through the ropes only once annually. In 2021, the current WBC featherweight belt holder failed to compete at all. Despite his long stretches on the sidelines, Russell Jr. maintains that his inactivity is through no fault of his own. Having spent the past several years calling out countless fighters from various weight classes including Gervonta Davis, Terence Crawford, and Leo Santa Cruz – Russell Jr. refuses to waste his time facing opposition that he deems unworthy.
While the featherweight titlist has been continually chastised for his idleness, the Washington D.C. native believes that the scarcity of his ring appearances, at least in part, should be blamed on both the consumers of his pugilistic sport and those who cover it.
“I mean, the fans, as well as the media, have to hold themselves somewhat responsible for that,” said Russell Jr. during a recent conference call explaining why he continues to be so inactive. “I’ve been willing to compete against whoever, whenever, wherever but I can’t force these guys to get in the ring with me. I need a dancing partner, I can’t go in the ring and shadowbox.”
For the first time in nearly two years, Russell Jr. will return to the ring. On January 22nd, at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Russell Jr. will take on undefeated mandatory challenger Mark Magsayo.
Though the 33-year-old was hoping to lure a more attractive name to the ring, he respects and appreciates Magsayo for stepping up to the plate.
“A lot of these guys aren’t really willing to step in there with me and put it all on the line. Finally, another competitor with some heart and some cajones that’s willing to fight. I take my hat off to Mark Magsayo. I know he’s going to bring his best, I want him to bring his best. We’re going to see who’s best is better.”
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