The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins live at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on SHOWTIME with IBF Junior Lightweight World Championship clash between unbeaten Puerto Rican Jose Pedraza (21-0, 12 KOs) and mandatory challenger Stephen Smith (23-1, 13 KOs), of Liverpool, England.
Here’s what the fighters had to say at Wednesday’s final press conference.
GARY RUSSELL JR.
(On Patrick Hyland…)
“First and foremost, I gotta tip my hat off to him. I heard him say he was being trained by his father. Me and my younger brothers are also trained by my dad. My father is my favorite superhero, so it is very hard to deal with a situation like this and to bounce back and to grind and put all the hard work and effort into it after all the heartache and loss, I gotta tip my hat off to him for that.
I know that anytime you have a fighter that trains for six to eight weeks and prepares for no one else but you, is a dangerous fight. He’s tall, he’s long, but we can take him. We’re going to handle it.”
(On returning from injury…)
“I feel good. I’m ready; I put the work in at the gym. Like I said earlier, I got cussed out several times and sometimes I left the gym feeling like the worst fighter ever. But, right now, we’re ready and we’re prepared to invest in my ability.”
(On what it means to have his brother Antonio on the card he’s headlining…)
“It means a lot. I’m looking forward to it. I’m actually more looking forward to watching my brother compete than my own fight. I will definitely be working his corner in that fight. It means a lot for us to be able to pass this information down from generation to generation and watch it grow and watch us build as a family and as a unit. It’s amazing.’
“He definitely has the potential to be the best. Him as well as Antuanne, who is now on the 2016 Olympic team. It’s all information passed down from generation to generation. I feel as though they definitely have the ability to be better than me. I would want them to be anyway.”
(On what he needs to win the fight…)
“I need to maintain control of the fight, close the distance and maintain the jab. Complete dominance; I want to touch the body early. He likes to move a lot, so we’re going to cut all that down.”
(On potential future opponents…)
“God willing, everything goes right come April 16, we would love to unify with Lee Selby. If I had my choice, I would go with Lee Selby first to unify. Immediately after that, I want Leo Santa Cruz and after that I need Lomachenko.
“I don’t care where [Lomachenko] moves. He can lose his next 10 fights, but before my career’s done he has to see me.”
(On what gives him the sense of satisfaction in boxing…)
“To fight for the WBC title is everything I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid and all of the hard work that I have put in to get to this position to fight for it. I am happy and I am just living for it now for Saturday night.”
(On being the first Irish boxer since Barry McGuigan to hold a featherweight world title…)
“It’s a whirlwind and it’s great. I’m just a local lad from Johnstown in Dublin and to be fighting on the big stage and to be fighting for a major world title, and again to be named the second featherweight ever to win a world title would be just amazing; a real dream come true for myself.”
(On Gary Russell…)
“I know he’s got fast hands. He’s a great southpaw and a great boxer so I have to be at the best of my ability on Saturday night for that. I worked on a game plan in the gym to counter his hand speed and it all has to come together on fight night. I can do all this and say all that, but I just have to perform on Saturday night and put it in by doing everything I’ve worked on to become champion.