WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) says he’s hoping to meet up with WBA Super World 126 lb champion Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) this summer in July in a unification fight. Russell Jr. plans on fighting in April, and he thinks there’s more than enough time for Santa Cruz to come back from his fight next month.
Russell, 30, is coming off of a 12 round unanimous decision victory over Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz last May in a dominating performance. Russell Jr. made Diaz look very average in that fight. Diaz is an excellent fighter, but he was completely over-matched.
Santa Cruz will be defending his WBA title against replacement opponent Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) on February 16 on Premier Boxing Champions on FOX & FOX Deportes at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles, California. Santa Cruz, 30, was originally scheduled to defend against Miguel Flores, but he was forced to pull out of the fight this week after suffering an ankle injury while in training camp.
“Instead of him [Leo Santa Cruz] fighting against me, he’s fighting someone I don’t know nothing about,” Russell Jr. said to esnewsreporting. “Because I’m a champion, I have to defend my title within a certain time frame. I’ll still compete against someone in the top 15 with the WBC just to keep my teeth sharp. I want to comeback around the same time as Leo [Santa Cruz]. He’s going to fight in February. I’m going to try and fight in April. We have enough time to get back in the ring to make it happen,” Russell Jr.
Russell Jr. wants the fight with Santa Cruz, but it remains to be seen if the feelings are mutual. Santa Cruz has been taking it easy lately, beating Abner Mares and Chris Avalos in his last two fights. Santa Cruz had already beaten Mares before in 2015. That fight was a one-sided affair in favor of Santa Cruz. The rematch between them was pointless from Santa Cruz’s perspective. It was just a money fight. Santa Cruz’s last tough fight was his rematch against Carl Frampton in January 2017. Santa Cruz won that fight by a 12 round majority decision to avenge his loss to Frampton from July 2016. That was a controversial defeat for Santa Cruz, being that a lot of boxing fans felt that he’d done enough to rate a victory.
“I’m going to do something to keep my teeth sharp,” Russell Jr. said. “I’m going to go in April…Maybe in June or July, we can get a deal [with Santa Cruz].
Russell Jr. isn’t giving any hints about who he plans on fighting for his stay busy fight in April. It’ll likely be Miguel Marriaga or Kiko Martinez. Those guys are ranked in the World Boxing Council’s top 15 at featherweight, and both of them are recognizable names with the hardcore boxing fans in the U.S. Former super bantamweight world champion Scott Quigg is ranked #5 by the WBC, but he’s not someone that Russell Jr. would want to fight in a stay busy fight. There would be nothing easy about fighting Quigg. He recently broke Oscar Valdez’s jaw in a 12 round decision loss to him la
“Nobody knew who [Vasyl] Lomachenko was until he fought Mr. Gary Russell Jr. He lost to [Orlando] Salido. I take nothing away from Salido, but he lost to Salido, a flat-footed, slow fighter,” Russell Jr. said.
Russell’s only career loss was a 12 round unanimous defeat at the hands of Lomachenko in 2014. Russell Jr. attributes that defeat as a result of him having to take off six pounds in the last days before the fight. His scale at his gym was five pounds off from the one that he weighed in on when he arrived before the weigh-in for the Lomachenko fight.