This weekend from the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, boxing's Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual appearance. Gary Russell, the reigning WBC featherweight champion, faces Mark Magsayo as the main event on Showtime.
Generally, Russell makes one defense per year. That's been the trend since he took the title from Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015. From that point on he performed once a year all the way up until 2020, when he defeated Tugstsogt Nyambayar in February 2020. That was the last time he boxed.
There was no Groundhog Day in '21 for some reason last year.
To put this into perspective, Russell's win over 'King Tug' in Allentown, PA, was several weeks before the pandemic shut down the world. Yes, it's been that long. It's been such a protracted stretch of inactivity that while he still has the WBC title, he was dropped completely from the Ring Magazine ratings.
This is not a condemnation of Russell, but just a stating of facts. Russell, 33, is still considered an elite featherweight. And really, unless ring rust has turned into outright corrosion, he should be expected to handle the hard hitting Filipino this weekend.
Make no doubt about it, Russell is an elite talent. That much was evident early on in his career when he flashed his skills on Golden Boy cards at Club Nokia in Los Angeles (back when Al Haymon's stable were promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's company). He comes from a region -- Washington DC -- that has produced a plethora of world-class fighters, the consensus was that he was the most naturally gifted since the great Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson, who like Russell was a skilled southpaw with an abundance of speed and technical acumen.
But there were always whispers about this yearning to become a star, or go above and beyond the call of duty. To him, boxing was a job, if not necessarily a passion. Despite fighting just once-a-year during his prime, he has carved out a nice living, if not a lasting legacy. Russell seems fine with this, which is certainly his prerogative.
And to be completely fair, some of this may not be his fault. Truth of the matter is that today's elite boxers for the most part only fight twice a year(sans Canelo in 2021), and in the past Leo Santa Cruz (who is also a PBC handled fighter who had a belt at 126 at the same time he did) was given Secret Service treatment from Russell by the powers that be.
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There were yearly rumors of him being unhappy about his situation but he invariably made his way back to PBC, to perform on Showtime.
His lone loss in 32 fights was to Vasiliy Lomachenko back in 2014 for the vacant WBO featherweight title. This was actually the last year he fought more than once in a calendar year, as he had three outings. Since then, he's one-and-done. But even now, you get the sense that will it take a pretty good fighter on a really good night to defeat him.
As you look at his ledger, you see names like the aforementioned, Gonzalez, Joseph Diaz and Kiko Martinez (who is actually a world champion, again). Russell has actually had a very good career.
But you get the sense that there should've been a lot more.
It was announced by DAZN earlier this week that the rematch between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC 115-pound title will take place at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona on February 5.
The winner of this bout could be in line to face either Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez, who clash for the third time in San Diego a month later.
“Srisaket and Carlos promises to be another brilliant Super-Flyweight World title battle,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Carlos got the better of Srisaket in their first fight seven years ago – and there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be a real fan-friendly war with so much at stake."
One thing about the super fly's -- they consistently deliver.
Saddened to hear about the passing of John 'Pops' Arthur, who was best known in boxing circles for working with James Toney during his renaissance in the mid-2000s. RIP to a good man who was universally respected.
David Finger of Fightnews.com wrote a nice piece about the interesting path he took in life before handling boxers:
THE NEXT GENERATION
According to Jose De La Cruz, who co-manages the sons of Fernando Vargas alongside Egis Klimas, tell SNAC.com that Fernando Jr. and Amado, will be added on to the Keith Thurman-Mario Barrios card on February 5 at the Mandalay Bay.
De La Cruz -- best known for his association with Jorge Linares -- says that the Vargas boys will be in four round bouts on this particular evening.
"We're really excited to get them going this year. Our plans are to keep all of Fernando's sons active in 2022. We'll be announcing some other plans for the Vargas' soon," he stated.
This week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller with Mario Lopez, 'the Desert Storm', Tim Bradley, joined us to talk about the current affairs in boxing, his own career, and the decision to eventually retire when he did....
The Showtime broadcast on Saturday night begins at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT....Also on this broadcast is 'King Tug' who faces late replacement Sakaria Lukas, who replaces Victor Pasillas, who tested positive for Covid. Rounding out the bill is a junior welterweight contest between Subriel Matias and Petros Ananyan..Showtime announced that their February 18 ShoBox telecast from Orlando, Florida, will be headlined by Jamaine Ortiz-Nahir Albright....On that same night, Thompson Boxing will kick off their year by staging card at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California, which features the explosive, hard-punching, Ruben 'Ace' Torres....I can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.....FINAL FLURRIES