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Gary Russell Jr. wants Gervonta Davis or Leo Santa Cruz

Image: Gary Russell Jr. wants Gervonta Davis or Leo Santa Cruz

By Allan Fox: WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs) turned back the threat of previously unbeaten Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs) in defeating him by a 12 round unanimous decision last Saturday night at the PPL Center, in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Nyambayar, 27, was desperately swinging for the fences in the second half of the bout, trying to pull himself out of a hole by scoring a knockout of Russell Jr. It didn’t work though. Russell Jr. was able to dodge Nyambayar’s best shots, and win a convincing decision on all 3 of the judges’ scorecards.

Russell Jr., 31, used his speed and combination punching to pound out a win by the scores 118-110, 116-112 and 117-111.

With his 5th successful title defense of his WBC strap under his belt. Russell Jr. is ready to face Leo Santa Cruz or Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis next. Russell is giving Santa Cruz a strict deadline of one month to sign a contract to fight him. If not, then Russell Jr. will be moving up to lightweight to look to set-up a fight with WBA champion Tank Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) if he’s willing to fight him.

Russell Jr. wants Tank Davis to step up and fight him

“It’s possible. I hope he does,” said Russell Jr., about Lomachenko. “For him to grow some nuts,” said Russell Jr. when asked what it’ll take for him to get Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis in the ring. “Sport of boxing is getting weak. I’ll answer if someone wants to fight me. If someone says they want to fight me, I’m a man at the end of the day.

“We’re going to fight. I don’t care if you’re 200 pounds,” continued Russell. “If you say you want to fight me, you better put your hands up. We’re going to rumble. As a fighter, that’s the type of mindset that you’re supposed to have as a fighter. What kind of stuff is that to say, ‘I don’t want to fight him because it don’t sell.’ You sound like a sucker.

“You mean to tell me because I’m telling you that I want to fight you, you’re picking and choosing who you want to fight you?” said Russell said about Tank Davis. “Come on, I ain’t trying to do that. That’s really what’s going on. Hell, yes, that fight would sell,” said Russell Jr. about a fight with Tank Davis.

“We don’t even have to have titles on the line,” Russell Jr. said about Davis. “We could have a charity event. The fight would sell. We could fight in DC. Everyone and their mother and grandmother would come to that fight, you know? You know what I’m saying? So let’s make the fights happen,” said Russell Jr. on Gervonta.

With Santa Cruz unlikely to take the fight with Russell Jr., he’s now hoping to get a fight with Tank Davis. Russell Jr. wants the Davis fight so much that he’s willing to face him with no titles on the line for a “charity event.”

It’s more likely that Russell Jr. will be limited to fighting WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney if he moves up to 135 rather than Tank Davis. Haney is a good fighter, so it won’t be a complete loss for Russell in moving up.

Tugstsogt was one of my better fighters I’ve faced – Russell

“I kept my jab in his face, and he couldn’t get passed it,” said Russell Jr. on Tugstsogt Nyambayar. “In the back half of the fight, I told myself I was going to lock my hands in front of my face and start walking forward and dictating the pace, and that’s what we did.

“He was definitely one of the better fighters I’ve been in against. I feel like he could give anybody in the upper echelon a run for their money,” said Russell on Tugstsogt.

“He was definitely good just like Jo Jo Diaz…I’ll meet him [Leo Santa Cruz] at 130, said Russell.  “I don’t plan on moving to 130. And I was planning on jumping straight up to 135. I want to put myself in a weight division with Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis. And I want a rematch with Vasiliy Lomachenko.

“I don’t want to do it for the fans, I don’t want to do it for the media. And I want to do it for myself. I’ve got too much integrity to let something like that go. I’ve got to get it back,” said Russell Jr. about wanting to avenge his loss to Lomachenko from 2014.

“I feel like there’s nobody in the weight division I want to compete against,” said Russell about the super featherweight division. The reason you’ve been seeing me fight once a year is because I’ve been competing against all mandatory challengers. These guys with everything to gain, and nothing to lose. No one is willing to fight me right now,” said Russell.

Tugstsogt gave Russell Jr. a tough fight, and it’s good that he’s acknowledging that. It was far from the typical one-sided fight that we’re used to seeing from Russell.

Tank Davis and don’t have the skills to mess with me – Russell Jr.

“I’m not going to say he’s a great fighter,” said Russell Jr. on Tank Davis. “I do take my hat off to him, because I saw him come up in the amateurs. I’m glad that he was able to provide financial security for his family. But he definitely DON’T have the skill-set to mess with me. That’s why he’s choosing, as well as his team and Floyd is choosing to keep him away from me.

“They hand-pick who they want to fight,” continued Russell Jr. on Gervonta. “I don’t hand-pick who I want to fight. I fight whoever says they want to fight me. Let’s make the fight happen. Of course, I’ll move to 135,” said Russell Jr. when asked if he’d fight Devin Haney.

“I said I was planning on moving up to 135,” said Russell. “If I go up to 135, I don’t want no tune-up fights. I need someone that is going to give me a fight, you know? I’m definitely planning on relinquishing my title. I no longer want to be WBC champion at 126. I plan on moving up in weight.

“If I don’t get a signed contract in a certain time frame, that Leo Santa Cruz is telling me he wants to fight, then I’ll vacate my title and move up in weight.

“They’ve [Team Santa Cruz] have got a good month or so,” said Russell about a deadline he’s giving Santa Cruz. “I need something in writing that we can start putting things in motion with that. If I don’t get something in the next month or so, I plan on moving up in weight,” said Russell.

Gervonta’s promoters at Mayweather Promotions will likely wait 2 to 5 years before they put him in with Russell Jr. By waiting until Russell Jr. is older, it increases the chances of Tank Davis winning. Russell Jr. is 31 now, and he could lose a lot of his hand speed in the next 5 years. However, if Tank eats his way out of the lightweight division, then a fight between him and Russell Jr. likely will never happen.

Russell Jr. says Lomachenko’s Franchise title helps him hide from fighters

“It’s possible,” said Russell Jr. about him being made #1 contender at 135 with WBC. “I’ve got to talk to [WBC president] Mauricio [Sulaiman] and see what they think. Of course that’s [being ranked #1 with WBC at lightweight] is something I want. I want to align myself to compete against these elite guys in the [135-lb class] weight division.

“Like I said, I don’t want any tune-up fights. I want to fight whoever they consider the best. That’s a way to manipulate, and politics is playing a big part in that,” said Russell Jr. about Lomachenko recently being made the WBC Franchise champion. “That’s a way of hiding fighters, and allow fighters to pick and choose who they want to fight once again.

“You know, I think the sport of boxing is getting WEAK,” said Russell. “It’s not like it used to be back in the day. A lot of fighters were willing to fight. Like I say, I’m a true man at the end of the day,” said Russell Jr.

If the World Boxing Council gives Russell Jr. a #1 ranking at 135, then he can challenge WBC champion Devin Haney for his title. But that won’t help Russell Jr. get a fight against WBC Franchise champion Vasily Lomachenko. With the Franchise tag, Lomachenko and his promoters at Top Rank pick and choose who they want to fight. Russell Jr. is probably not in the picture for Loma. Not now, not ever.

Teofimo Lopez will give Lomachenko a tough fight – Russell

“I was quick enough and strong enough to beat him,” said Russell Jr. in responding to Nyambayar’s comments about being ‘quick but not strong.’ “I’ll probably not go to the fight,” said Russell about the Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez fight. “I prefer to spend time at home.

“I’ll definitely keep a close eye on it. I know Teofimo Lopez. I really knew his name was Teofimo Lopez.,” said Russell Jr. “I always called him ‘Gordo.’ I was like, ‘Who are they talking about? Oh, Gordo.’ But I take my hat off to him as well. I think he’s going to give him Lomachenko a tough fight. And I think he’s strong.

“I think he has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. So I think he’s going to bring his physical best, and I think he’s to be ready. It’s going to be a nice fight,” said Russell on Lomachenko vs. Teofimo.

Russell Jr. wants the chance to avenge his 2014 loss to Lomachenko, but it’s not likely to happen. Lomachenko is expected to move back down to 130 if/when he beats Teofimo on May 30. Top Rank is then expected to match Lomachenko against their top 130 and 126 lb fighters one after another:

  • Oscar Valdez
  • Jamel Herring
  • Miguel Berchelt
  • Shakur Stevenson
  • Carl Frampton

It’s good for Russell Jr. to stay on the fence about the Lomachenko-Teofimo fight, because he’ll be looking to fight the winner. Lomachenko, 31, is the favorite, but Teofimo could pull off the upset with his power and youth.

Since moving up to lightweight in 2018, Lomachenko has been taking punishment like never before. 3 of his 4 fights at 135 have been grueling matches in which he got hit a lot. The only easy fight for Loma was against Anthony Crolla, who was more of a paper champion when he held the WBA ‘regular’ 135-lb belt.

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