We’ve just about reached the time of year when Gary Russell Jr. has his annual title defense, and despite two obvious options in Leo Santa Cruz and mandatory challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar, the WBC featherweight champ is looking at a fight with former IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez.
Sorry, “King Tug.” Better luck next year.
Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KO) had a solid run as a 122-pound champ, including knockouts of Jeffrey Mathebula and Hozumi Hasegawa, before falling to Carl Frampton in a rematch. He went on to suffer knockout losses to Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz in subsequent title bids, but did fight Josh Warrington to a majority decision in 2017.
Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KO) tore up Jhonny Gonzalez for his first world title in 2015, then waited 13 months to knock out Patrick Hyland in his first defense. Then he waited another 13 months to brutalize Oscar Escandon. Then he waited another 12 months to win a decision over JoJo Diaz Jr.
About par for the course as far as disappointing Russell matchups go, I’d say, and at least the 11-month layoff is shorter than the rest.