Gary Russell Jr is a featherweight prospect to watch, and will be in action on Saturday night on HBO. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
American featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr makes his HBO debut on Saturday night against Leonilo Miranda, the co-feature to the Jan Zaveck vs Andre Berto main event from the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Miss.
Russell (17-0, 10 KO) was recently dismissed by Top Rank's Bob Arum as just "another Al Haymon creation," despite the fact that Arum admitted to having never seen Russell. Since I've actually seen him fight, I can honestly state that I think I'm a better judge of boxing talent in this instance than Bob Arum is. Take that, ya millionaire!
Russell, 23, was born in Washington, D.C., and now fights out of Capitol Heights, Md., trained by his father, the senior Gary Russell. He was a two-time national champion, the 2005 bronze medalist at the World Amateur Championships, and one of the few serious U.S. hopes for gold in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics, but had to pull out of the competition after having trouble making the 119-pound limit for his division, as he basically just grew out of the weight class at the worst time. He turned professional on January 16, 2009.
When he was an amateur, Sugar Ray Leonard compared Russell to himself, but there's a grain of salt there given Leonard's general enthusiasm for American Olympians. Russell has terrific, A+ type hand speed and his amateur skills have translated pretty well to the pro game. He's sound fundamentally and doesn't having glaring weaknesses with his technique, as he's well-schooled. He's not a huge puncher, but he does seem to have some pop. He's a southpaw, and although the days of southpaws being terribly rare have passed us by, it never hurts to be one. He doesn't ignore the body, and he puts punches together pretty well.
He's a small featherweight at 5'5" with a 62" reach. That may not hurt him short-term, but moving up in weight could be a problem. While he does appear to have some power, at least respectable power, there's a question of how much he'll have against top guys, and some of that stems from a masterful and dominant performance against Eric Estrada in July on the Khan vs Judah undercard. What he did was impressive, but it felt like he should have gotten Estrada out of there, and he didn't. That may be less a problem with power than with a potential lack of "killer instinct," though, if it is indeed a problem with Russell himself and not just a credit to Estrada's toughness that night. Though Russell has been in with some solid veterans for his level and really hasn't been matched particularly easy, he remains untested as a pro and we don't know about his chin or heart just yet. Physically, outside of his height and reach, he doesn't really have any issues yet. There are many chapters yet to be read.
vs Rodrigo Aranda (2010-06-24) - YouTube
vs Mauricio Pastrana (2010-07-22) - YouTube
vs Willie Villanueva (2010-09-15) - YouTube
vs Guadalupe de Leon (2010-10-28) - Part 1 and Part 2
vs Feider Viloria (2011-01-28) - YouTube
vs Adolfo Landeros (2011-04-15) - Part 1 and Part 2
vs Antonio Meza (2011-06-17) - YouTube