Gary Russell Jr. doesn’t see why he can’t jump into the ring no less than three times this year.
The quick-fisted featherweight champion (WBC) from Washington D.C. has had something of an underwhelming career, mostly due to his inconsistent fighting schedule. He has fought essentially once a year since 2015.
But Russell (31-1, 18 KOs), who did not enter the ring at all last year, appears to be confident that 2022 will be different. At the very least he will have an early start: He defends his title against the Philippine’s Mark Magsayo at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City this Saturday, Jan. 22 on Showtime.
“I’ll be competing in the first month of the year,” Russell said on The PBC Podcast when asked about his desire to fight more frequently. “We should be able to get in at least three bouts this year as long as we’re injury free.”
The last time the southpaw Russell, 33, fought more than once in a calendar year was in 2014, when he fought three times.
“I believe we can go, like I said, the first month of the year and then we can swing it back around to the middle part of the year, and we should be able to end the year strong as well,” Russell said.
In addition to his inactivity, Russell has been hounded by the perception that he is not interested in taking on tough assignments. Russell, however, insisted that it’s the other way around.
“I’ve always been one of those guys that’s been advocating to compete frequently,” Russell said. “It’s never been me. The issue is to get a dancing partner in the ring. I’ve always been willing to compete against whoever and whenever. My issue is to get someone in the ring that is actually gonna compete, you know?”
Russell pointed to the fact that he was in talks to face longtime 122-pounder Rey Vargas in a mandatory bout last summer, when it was reported that both sides had reached a deal. But the fight was never announced, and Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs) ended up facing Leonardo Baez on the undercard of the Nov. 6 Canelo Alvarez-Caleb Plant main event in Las Vegas.
“Rey Vargas was supposed to be the mandatory challenger (WBC) about a year ago, not too long ago,” Russell said. “Nothing came from that. The next thing you know I see him fighting on Canelo’s undercard. So just make it make some sense."