WBC featherweight world champion Gary Russell Jr., who owns the longest reign of any current male champion and has held his 126-pound belt since 2015. On January 22, Russell takes on WBC mandatory challenger Mark Magsayo live on SHOWTIME from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. Russell, who is making just his sixth defense in seven years, says he has problems getting opponents.
“I’ve been willing to compete against whoever, whenever and wherever, but I can’t force these guys to get in the ring and fight me,” Russell told reporters Tuesday. “I just have to prepare to the best of my ability. I need a dance partner.
“I see [Magsayo] as a good even-handed puncher, maybe he leans a little more to the right hand. He has good punching power, but none of that matters if you can’t hit your target.
“We’re grinding in training camp. No matter what, we’re not going to make any excuses or complaints.
“If I’m going to move up in weight, I want to fight the champion. I’m not planning to move up in weight just to stand in line. I’m fighting Magsayo because he moved up the rankings and earned this spot. Everyone who I’ve competed against has been the next best guy under the champion.
“I don’t have any concerns with Magsayo’s power. You very seldom see me have to come back on the scorecards. Magsayo had to come back in his last fight because he was losing on the cards. That shows some holes in his armor.
“I never overlook anybody. Of course, I want the Gervonta Davis fight. But I’m focused on Magsayo. He’s the one who worked his way into this position to fight me. Davis is in no rush, so I’m going to remain focused on a true warrior who’s getting into the ring with me.
“I stay in the gym. Boxing is not just what I do, it’s a lifestyle for me. Even when I’m over and done with my career, I’m still going to be in the gym. I never really blow up and get big in weight. I love what I do and I’m very militant in my mindset.
“No one can really prepare for me. You can’t prepare like you think you can. I know Magsayo will be at his physical and mental best. I take my hat off to him, because he’s willing to put it on the line to prove he’s the best. I wish other fighters would take that same risk.
“A lot of these other guys aren’t willing to step in there with me because of the skillset that I bring. Finally, we have another fighter with some heart who’s willing to fight. I want him to bring his best, so we’ll see whose best is best.”