Gary Russell Jr recently spoke with Lem Satterfield of The RING, and some of his answers to questions about top fighters might turn some heads, and maybe not in a good way.
Russell, 24, has been criticized for a slow-moving career, which he's shrugged off and repeatedly stated he's happy with, as Al Haymon and Golden Boy continue to allow him to face rather soft opposition. He's currently slated for a return on July 13, when he'll fight at the Barclays Center on Showtime. As usual, Russell does not have an opponent. It's Russell vs TBA VIII or whatever.
Certainly, he is a talented young prospect. But take this answer to a question about Abner Mares:
GR: [Laughs.] I think he's okay. I think he's tailor-made for me. I think that everyone is going to have this fight hyped if it does go down. I feel that everybody's going to have it so hyped up to be a great fight.
They're going to hype him up to be a monster. But when I compete against him, it's going to be so easy. I like that, because that's going to really make it.
I love the fact that they're going to make this guy look like a monster, so that I can get him and beat him the way that I will beat him. It will make me look that much better.
Now, look, I'm not holding up Abner Mares as the living embodiment of an elite fighter or anything, but Abner Mares has won titles at 118, 122, and 126. He just stopped Daniel Ponce De Leon, a pretty damn good fighter. He's beaten Joseph Agbeko (twice), Vic Darchinyan, and Anselmo Moreno. At 27, Mares has already had an entire career's worth of achievements.
Russell (22-0, 13 KO) has genuinely not faced anyone who had a chance to beat him. Again, this is a supremely talented fighter, but fighters with talent have flopped before, for various reasons. Talent's not everything. Mike Oliver was really talented. Ricardo Williams Jr was very talented. Hell, Amir Khan is a great talent, but he's had obvious struggles against top competition -- and he's already had a pretty good career, himself.
Russell is talking himself up as a surefire winner over Mares? That's fine for him, because there's no reason he shouldn't be that confident in himself, but it's probably not going to endear him to anyone or win any new fans. I mean, it's just an interview, but fans remember this stuff -- particularly if you don't wind up backing up your bold statements.
I mean, he's also fairly dismissive of guys like Nonito Donaire, Mikey Garcia, and Yuriorkis Gamboa. He calls a potential meeting with Gamboa a "super fight." What world is he in? Gamboa's a co-feature for Chad Dawson.
I don't know, maybe it's just me, and maybe I give too much of a crap about this, but I'm feeling some real negative ego problems coming from this dude right now. With a guy like Adrien Broner, whether you find him funny or not, there's at least a sense of humor. Also, Broner's done a lot more than Russell has. Russell's giving me some doubts right now.
Is it only me? Given what he has (or hasn't) achieved in the sport to this point, does his attitude give you pause here when projecting his ceiling?