Arguably the ‘forgotten champion’ of the 126lbs champion, the American’s career has frustrated.
Since winning the belt against Jhonny Gonzalez in March 2015, Russell has defended his belt just twice – a second round stoppage of Dublin’s Pajo Hyland in April 2016 and a seventh round stoppage of Oscar Escandon in May 2017.
In the same period of time WBO champ Oscar Valdez has boxed nine times, while IBF champ Lee Selby and WBA titlist Leo Santa Cruz have both fought six times.
Even Belfast’s Carl Frampton, who suffered a last-minute cancellation during the Summer, has fought five times.
Southpaw Russell hopes to change this in 2018, and has a mandatory defence tentatively lined up – although he’s not sure that it will happen.
The 29 year old was ringside last night for the Premier Boxing Champions card at the Coliseum in St Petersburg, Florida – a card on which Derry middleweight Connor Coyle scored a career-best win over Calvin Metcalfe.
Russell – who like Frampton, Santa Cruz, and Selby – is advised by PBC chief Al Haymon and wants to get in the mix for big, and more frequent, fights in 2018
“We’re definitely planning on staying a little more active [next] year,” he said on the Fox Sport 1-broadcast bill topped by Devon Alexander v Walter Castillo.
“We wanna get another bout in sometime in February and we wanna go back again in May.”
“The WBC already sanctioned the mandatory challenger, Jo Jo Diaz. I’m curious if Golden Boy and them is really willing to put him in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell Jr.”
With Diaz and his team allegedly dragging their heels, Russell is open to fighting the other stars in the division.
That said, he believes he is an avoided fighter, and outlined how “there’s a lot of people in the division that’s very scared and afraid to step in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell Jr.”
“Anybody that’s in the featherweight division – Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton – it doesn’t matter.”
“You can hear people in the background, yelling it. Don’t be afraid. It’s time to make it happen. Let’s get it.”