Gary Russell Jr. (22-0, 13 KO’s) is coming off of a dominant boxing victory against Vyacheslav Gusev (20-3, 5 KO’s) on March 2, 2013. Despite Russell Jr.’s fractured left hand—which he suffered in the fourth or fifth round—Gusev was only able to land 33 punches, which are the fewest landed punches ever recorded in a 10-round fight in CompuBox’s 28-year history (per BoxingScene.com).
Russell Jr.’s performance versus Gusev—while dominant—highlights the fact that Gary needs to step up his level of opposition. After the Gusev fight, Russell Jr. spoke with Boxing 360 and admitted that he has skills that he hasn’t even gotten a chance to display yet.
“I haven’t been pushed to the point where I’ve had to take it into second or third gear. I haven’t had to push through adversity.”
Although some fans and pundits believe Russell Jr. has been stuck at the prospect level for too long, Gary firmly stated to Boxing 360 that he is happy with the pace at which his career is moving. Having said that, perhaps the most intriguing bit of information that we learned after the Gusev fight was Russell Jr.'s wish list of future opponents, which includes Juan Manuel Lopez, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Yuriorkis Gamboa (per ESPN).
It's clear that any of these three fighters would be a tremendous step up in competition for Gary Russell Jr.
Though he’s not included in The Ring junior lightweight top 10 ratings and ranks a lowly 25 on the BoxRec.com featherweight list, Russell Jr. still believes he is ready for the top fighters in and around the featherweight division.
How Russell Jr. heals from his most recent injury may determine whether or not his handlers let him take a giant leap in competition and challenge for a belt this year. Assuming he can get back in the ring in a few months, these are the top five boxers Gary Russell Jr. should consider fighting next.