Gary Russell Jr dominated as expected in tonight’s yearly title defense, and then he made the challenge to Leo Santa Cruz.
Gary Russell Jr did as anticipated tonight, dominating and stopping overmatched challenger Kiko Martinez to retain the WBC featherweight title when the fight was stopped in the fifth round due to a bad cut on Martinez.
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Russell (30-1, 17 KO) won every round of the fight, flashing his hand speed and skills like he always does when he hits the ring once a year, leaving Martinez (39-9-2, 28 KO) bloody and battered. The Spaniard — who is currently the European featherweight titleholder is a former world titleholder at 122 pounds — was game, but just hopelessly out of his depth with Russell.
After the fight is where things got a bit more interesting, as Russell offered just a brief summary of his performance tonight before launching into a call-out.
“We knew that intellect over athleticism would win this fight, but before all is said and done, y’all need to read the back of my shirt,” Russell said.
The back of his shirt read, “LEO NEXT, WHAT’S UP AL?” referring to WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz and Al Haymon, the power broker behind both men under the PBC banner.
“We want Leo Santa Cruz. We want to make that fight happen,” Russell continued. “The fire’s all the way hot on this side of the field. You will get burnt. I would love for that fight to happen this year. If we can get that fight, that’s the fight we want.”
Asked if he’d move up to 130 pounds to fight WBA super featherweight titleholder Gervonta “Tank” Davis if Santa Cruz won’t take the fight, Russell side-stepped a bit but didn’t make a half-bad suggestion.
“I will immediately vacate my title and challenge (WBC super featherweight titleholder Miguel) Berchelt,” Russell said. “Once I get that fight, I want the unification fight (with Davis), definitely.”
For now — and this is about all we can ask in the moment — Russell is at least doing what we want, making the public challenges, putting the pressure on the other fighters we want to see him face. Maybe it’ll amount to something, maybe not, but it appears that Gary Russell Jr is through being quiet, and that’s something, anyway.