An IBF featherweight title eliminator between top prospects Gary Russell Jr and Luis Franco was ordered by the sanctioning body recently, followed by Gary Shaw (who promotes Franco) outbidding Golden Boy Promotions for the right to the fight.
At that point, it started looking like a fight that might not happen. Golden Boy is extremely high on Russell, who is managed by Al Haymon, and the 24-year-old southpaw is being groomed as a TV star. Franco, who hasn't had the same type of push, can fight, has no star power whatsoever, and Shaw didn't want to put the fight on the Golden Boy/Haymon-led June 30th event on Showtime, which will feature Cornelius "K9" Bundrage vs Cory Spinks and Erislandy Lara vs Freddy Hernandez.
So the fight is off, as Russell has withdrawn for unspecified reasons, which most likely are simply that this isn't a fight his management team wants.
Russell (19-0, 11 KO) hasn't fought in 2012, which probably isn't the best thing for a young prospect to be doing. He got an HBO fight last year in an eight-round bout, which is basically unheard of at this point, easily defeating Leonilo Miranda on the Berto-Zaveck card in September. He followed that up with an easy knockout of Heriberto Ruiz in November in Cincinnati, which wasn't shown live on HBO, but was then shown on the network as it lasted all of 2:12.
Russell was even mentioned last night on the Pacquiao vs Bradley pay-per-view. So clearly, this is a kid that everyone is excited about, and for some really good reasons. He can fight, he's got a load of talent, and he figures to be fun to watch.
That said, he still hasn't faced a test, and I worry we've got another highly-touted prospect here who has been promised the moon, thus expects it, and when he faces someone who can fight and isn't overwhelmed by his skills or knocked out in a round, it's going to be hard on him. Harder than it has to be. I would have picked him to beat Franco, but it wasn't a gimme.
This situation could lead to Franco (11-0, 7 KO) being named the mandatory challenger to Billy Dib.