I'm not one to throw around the word "great" or "greatness" because I've always felt like in sports especially that word has been used to label people who don't deserve it either because they weren't really all that great to begin with, or they failed to live up to said greatness. I'm a little gun shy when it comes to using grand proclamations to describe athletes in any sport.
But a different set of circumstances apply to Gary Russell Jr., and so they should because what we're witnessing, and what I saw over the weekend is nothing short of greatness playing out in a way that rarely comes along throughout our lifetime. There's only been one guy who I've said was the most naturally gifted fighter I had ever seen: Chad Dawson. To me there's no question Gary Russell is the best featherweight prospect in the world without any close second competition. I really like Mikey Garcia but he's simply no match for the kind of special fighter Gary Russell Jr. is and will become.
This guy, you really have to watch him more than once to get a sense of how special he is. Not just the hand speed which is his most obvious weapon, but his counter punching, his intelligence, his ability to stand right in front of you and not get hit at all. I'm like, this guy is barely moving and he's not getting hit. Not only that, he had Roberto Castaneda afraid to throw any punches because he didn't want to get countered.
Greatness isn't a word to be used lightly but it applies here. There's a difference between him and Adrien Broner where I think Broner will be a really good P4P staple in the foreseeable future, I think Gary Russell Jr. will be the best fighter in the world P4P for the next five or six years. I think he's that great and will eventually surpass Andre Ward as the best fighter in the world. Right now obviously he has to take on the top guys at 126 pounds but I don't worry about his chances against any top ten contender in the featherweight division. Honestly I think he can beat all of them if he wanted to.
I read on article saying he wants Daniel Ponce De Leon next year, that's a good fight. If he does to Ponce De Leon what I think and know he can do to him, that will have a much bigger impact on the comparisons talent wise to Adrien Broner because we all know Broner struggled against Daniel Ponce De Leon for whatever reason.
Other than Ponce De Leon all you have are Chris John, Celestino Caballero, and Billy Dib the IBF champion. I don't see a strong hall of champions at the moment who would give Gary Russell Jr. any problems. I think against any champion he would be the favorite and rightfully so. Depending on how long he stays at 126 pounds you'll see the super bantamweights slowly but surely move up into his line of sight. I can tell you I wouldn't mind seeing him in there against Abner Mares or Nonito Donaire sometime next fall or winter.
What do you guys think? I say once he gets his hands on a championship I don't see him losing for a good two or three years at the very least. The only fighter out there that could possibly give him some trouble down the road is Abner Mares, and he's not even in the division yet. Thinking long term of course, will Rigondeaux at what? 32, 33 in a year's time or so be the same fighter he is now? Will Donaire be as dominant at age 31 in a bigger weight division? To me Abner Mares seems like the natural future opponent because he's younger than Donaire and Rigondeaux and plus he's proven himself to be all wrong for a lot of different fighters who think they have the game plan or style to beat him.
Not to veer off topic but while I believe Gary Russell Jr. is becoming great and will be one of the greatest to ever wear a pair of gloves, I think Abner Mares is starting to establish why he's better than some people are willing to recognize.