Gary Russell Jr. felt invincible as his title reign stretched past the five year mark. With the speedy featherweight champion confident that Mark Magsayo would become yet another victim, Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) appeared flustered as a bothersome shoulder injury forced him to battle for most of their contest with just one hand.

Although he was apoplectic following his defeat, the 34-year-old has placed most of his focus on his rehab. So far so good, as the former champion believes he’s on the right track to making a full recovery.

In terms of his next move, that remains an unknown mystery. But, after spending the entirety of his career at 126 pounds, Russell is seemingly washing his hands of the only division he’s ever known. While the logical move would be to compete at 130 pounds, Russell is now flirting with the idea of moving up two weight classes.

In addition to eyeing a move to the lightweight division, Russell isn’t interested in taking on a soft touch. Instead, the Maryland resident would much rather swap fists with an established contender.

“I like little Pitbull, Isaac Cruz. I like Isaac Cruz, I would fight Isaac Cruz.”

By and large, Cruz’s popularity has skyrocketed following his competitive defeat at the hands of Gervonta Davis. Though he was given the call on relatively short notice, the 24-year-old pressure fighter gave Davis all he could handle during their December of 2021 showdown.  

Still, even with his shortcomings, Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs) has bolted into the limelight. With back-to-back stoppage victories under his belt, the Mexican native has his eyes set on a world title run. Russell, however, has other ideas.

Admittedly, the pugnacious former champion reveals that he has a certain affinity for the way in which Cruz conducts himself in the ring. That said, if the two were to line up, Russell is overwhelmingly confident that he’ll take care of his man without breaking a sweat.

“I like him too, he's a little dog, I’ll burn his ass up though.”