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Interview: Gary Russell Jr on his upcoming fight with Patrick Hyland, Lomachenko, and more

WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr joins us to discuss his April 16 fight on Showtime, Vasyl Lomachenko, and much more.

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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Note: This interview was supposed to air on our podcast, but the recording software on our end jumbled the audio up to the point that it wasn't usable. I was able to transcribe most of the interview. I want to thank Gary Russell Jr for the interview and apologize for the technical difficulties on our end. - Scott

Scott Christ, Bad Left Hook: "Gary, thanks so much for joining us. How's camp going for this fight?"

Gary Russell Jr: "Hard. It's a hard camp. Every camp is hard. This is the toughest part about fighting, the preparation for it, the hours, the sacrifice, and everything else. But it's going good, that's the good thing. We're ready."

SC: "Let's talk for a moment here about your early days in boxing. A lot of fans might not know the early days before you turned pro. What brought you to the boxing world, how did you get started in the sport?"

GRJ: "My father was a boxer. And maybe at the age of about two years old, I was always just with him in the gym. After a while, you end up punching the heavy bag. Everyone else was doing it, so I started hitting the bags, hitting the mitts. That's how we started."

SC: "Were there any fighters who influenced your style or you were a big fan of when you were getting started?"

"My father told me a long time ago, you can never please everyone. ... My job is to beat everyone, dominate whoever they put in front of me."

GRJ: "Oh, yeah, definitely. Sugar Ray Robinson, definitely Meldrick Taylor. I like Meldrick Taylor and Ray Robinson because, Meldrick Taylor had the hand speed and the combination punching. It was something that got my attention. Sugar Ray Robinson, he brought also the hand speed and combination punching, but he brought punching ability and power to it. Those are the two."

SC: "You qualified for the Olympic team back in 2008, but didn't get to compete, you collapsed due to dehydration before the weigh-in, and were pulled from competition. How tough was that on you mentally, to work so hard to get to that point, and then have it yanked away from you?"

GRJ: "It was definitely tough. It wasn't a thing of dehydration, that was just the word that was out. I was actually very, very sick out there. In Beijing, they were shooting so many chemicals into the air to try to purify the air. I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not, but I wasn't the only person to have that issue. It happened to a couple of reports, some wrestlers. But for me to get to that point and for it to not be able to happen -- oh my goodness, man. It definitely weighed on me so much.

"I had so many people who genuinely had my best interests at hand. My supporters and everything else, and for me to not be able to compete, I felt as though their support was in vain. The only way for me to make it up was, once I became a professional fighter, to become a world champion."

SC: "Present day, you are a world champion. Your upcoming fight is against Patrick Hyland. You're coming off a fairly long layoff, your last fight a little over a year ago, the title win over Jhonny Gonzalez. You were supposed to return last November but had an injury in camp, you were supposed to return in March but that card got canceled when Keith Thurman got hurt. Has there been much ring rust to shake off in camp?"

GRJ: "There's always some ring rust to shake off, after a layoff that long. But that's the purpose of these training camps. We get everything situated in camp, to try to shake as much off as possibly by getting a lot of rounds in sparring."

SC: "Your opponent Patrick Hyland -- being totally honest, not a guy people see as a true top contender. That said, when he fought Javier Fortuna a few years back, he gave Fortuna a harder fight than we expected. What do you see in Hyland, do you see a guy who's a tougher opponent than many think, who maybe just hasn't had the opportunities to showcase his talent on bigger stages?"

GRJ: "Anyone that gets in the ring, prepares themselves, they're a dangerous fighter. We overlook no one. Even with his record, I think he's 30-1 or something like that, it didn't get those wins for no apparent reason. Whether he fought guys of minor standards or anything like that, he still had to take the win. We don't underestimate anyone. I know he's gonna come to fight."

Q: "Is Lomachenko as good as advertised?"
A: "No."

SC: "There have been times in recent years where you've faced criticism from fans and media for your opposition, people thinking you should have faced top fighters sooner. Do you ever think about that and go, like, 'Look, I fought Lomachenko, who nobody else wanted to fight. I fought Jhonny Gonzalez, and dominated and won a world title.' Does any of that criticism get under your skin, do you feel you don't get the respect you've earned sometimes?"

GRJ: "My father told me a long time ago, you can never please everyone. So no, I don't pay attention to any of it. Half of these guys that are saying that are people who have never fought a day in their life, you know, so it doesn't bother me. If I compete against these guys they wanted me to compete against, they'll just find something else to talk about. My job is to beat everyone, dominate whoever they put in front of me."

SC: "The featherweight division is really heating up. Showtime and PBC have a lot of the top fighters in the division, including three world champions in yourself, Leo Santa Cruz, and Lee Selby. We hear a lot of fighters talk about unification, is that something that's important to you, do you want to fight those guys this year?"

GRJ: "Of course, of course, of course. God willing we get through this guy on the 16th, because we never underestimate anyone. If we get through the 16th, I would love to compete and unify against the winner between Lee Selby and Eric Hunter. I don't know who's gonna win that, but I'd love to get the winner of that. If that goes as planned, and we get the winner of that, we'd have the IBF title as well. And at that point I'd be trying to unify against Leo Santa Cruz. If we do that, I'd love to see Lomachenko again."

SC: "I know it's not easy with boxing politics what they are, but I was going to ask if the fight could get done, if a Lomachenko rematch interested you at some point."

GRJ: "Of course. Man, there was so many factors that played out in that fight, that I'm not going to get into in this interview. But anyone who watched that fight, who's a true fan or connoisseur of the sport, they could visibly see that there was something wrong. No hand speed, power, none of that. There were definitely issues we had going into that fight. But of course, I want him again.

"It's not just a Lomachenko thing. I had over 100 plus amateur fights. I had 10 losses. I remember all the people that I've lost to, you know? It's something that -- I don't want to do it for the fans, it's a selfish thing that I want to accomplish."

SC: "Tell me a little about Lomachenko, he gets so much praise. Is he everything we're told he is, is he as good as advertised?"

GRJ: "No."

SC: "No?"

GRJ: "No. No. This is the reason why. In that particular fight, the scale in my entire training camp was off. When we got to the venue and checked our weight, we were five and a half pounds overweight. We had to lose five and a half pounds. You know how we lost that five and a half pounds? In the sauna. 30 minutes in, five minutes out. Another 15, 20 minutes in, five minutes out. 30 minutes back in. We attempted to try to rehydrate, get our energy and everything back, but everyone knows what you eat today doesn't help you out tomorrow.

"My energy level, everything was gone. If you pay close attention to that fight, my distance and range was off. When a lot of people talk about having mirages and stuff, they talk about mirages when it's hot outside, when you've drained all the fluid out of your body, and out of your brain, your mind is playing tricks on you, because the fluid is gone from your brain. That's what happened with Lomachenko. My distance and range was off. I was throwing shots he was clearly not in range for me to hit him with. I didn't think I'd be able to shadowbox 12 rounds, let alone fight 12 rounds. In that particular fight, he should have stopped me."

"All I can do is be me. People are going to see what they're used to seeing."

SC: "With this fight against Hyland, are you looking to make a statement, remind everyone of just who Gary Russell Jr is?"

GRJ: "That's all I can do. All I can do is be me. People are gonna see what they're used to seeing. The speed, the power, the range. The boxing IQ. All of these things. He's tall, he's rangy. We'll have to close the distance a little bit. I believe we have to take the fight to him. I've seen a little footage on him. I saw a couple rounds of him in the Fortuna fight. He has some trouble with southpaws, he's susceptible to being hit with the left hand. We're definitely gonna capitalize on it."

SC: "Thank you so much for joining us. Anything you want to add?"

GRJ: "Just tune in on the 16th. I want my fans to know that their support is not in vain."

Gary Russell Jr vs Patrick Hyland airs live on Showtime on Saturday, April 16, at 11:00 pm EDT, from the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT. Tickets are available at

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