“Basically there’s nothing we can do about it, so there’s no use crying about it. It is what it is; it’s boxing,” a frustrated but practical Gary Russell Sr. told Maxboxing from a gym in Las Vegas after revealing that his son, Gary Russell Jr., would not be on the televised portion of the Amir Khan-Zab Judah fight on HBO Saturday night.
Instead of fighting 17-2 Paul Truscott, who has never fought outside of Great Britain, Russell will now face 9-1 (3) Eric Estrada, who’s never won a fight outside of Illinois. Despite the setback, Russell Sr. says there will be no letdown and he has received at least tentative assurance that Russell’s next bout will be aired by the network.
Other than the obvious jokes asking if Estrada rode his vintage “CHiPs” motorcycle to Vegas, there’s not much to be said of Estrada. Other than the hardcore Chicago fan of the “Sweet Science,” no one knows much about him, even the Russells. But Russell Sr. knows whatever Estrada can throw at his son, they’ll have a response.
HBO viewers will see highlights from Russell’s fight, whetting their appetites until a worthy opponent doesn’t back out at the last minute. After greasing Al Haymon’s palm with huge license fees for garbage like Andre Berto vs. Freddy Hernandez, this is where HBO makes its stand?
Russell Jr., however, is ready for prime time. In his last fight, he displayed maturity and patience as he methodically broke down Antonio Meza over four heats. While beating Meza hardly qualifies one as a top contender, it was the way Russell broke him down that was important. We didn’t see the Russell I once labeled “a middleweight packed into 126 pounds of fury.” We saw a Russell fighting in a way that better prepares him to take that next step.
The Russell that so easily overpowered many foes through superior athleticism gave way to a more thoughtful, craftier fighter that used the early rounds to look for opportunities that could be either found or created, then effectively exploited those in the following rounds. Although seen by only the small viewership of Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo,” the performance should have put the featherweight division on notice with a simple statement: Don’t look back. Gary Russell is coming.