WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr makes his annual title defence this weekend when he faces No3 contender Kiko Martinez of Spain on the Deontay Wilder vs Dominic Breazeale card at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York this Saturday, May 18th.
The Washington DC born champion has made very little advance in his career since picking up the title in March 2015 from long-serving champion Jhonny Gonzalez. The Mexican had won the title for a second time by 1st round knockout of the undefeated Abner Mares, so Russell Jr made a real statement when he tore the title away from Gonzalez by 4th round Tko.
The Gonzalez win remains the best on Russell Jr's slate to date, mainly due to his reluctance to fight more often. He says that his peers do not wish to face him so he only defends his title once a year, but that is his choice in reality because he is a very talented boxer that his promoters Premier Boxing Champions would like to showcase more often.
Champions that want to force unification bouts do so by getting as much exposure to the boxing public as they can. Three spectacular wins a year will bring far more focus to your cause than a once a year outing.
It might seem that the purpose of this article is to criticize Russell Jr but it is frustrating to see so much talent being wasted. Martinez has been a good servant to the sport but he really shouldn't be getting another shot at the title at this stage of his career. Since losing to Josh Warrington in 2017, the Spaniard has won 3 and drawn 1 against very poor opposition.
It is a long time since Martinez shocked unbeaten Columbian Jhonatan Romero in Atlantic City in 2013 to become the IBF Super-bantamweight champion and the Sergio Martinez promoted Spaniard is nearing the end of his career.
The only loss on Russell Jr's resume was by majority decision in a vacant WBO Featherweight title bout with Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2014. Judge Lisa Giampa's 114-114 card was hard to understand but the 2 other officials got it right with identical 112-116 scores.
Losing to Lomachenko in a competitive fight has become a thing of the past so Russell Jr should be proud of that fact.
On a good note, it will be good to see the fast punching champion putting on a show in New York and being televised by Fox in America and Sky Sports in the UK. He needs the exposure and dare I say it to fight more often.
I see the fight being over before the halfway mark. Martinez is tough and will come to win but his hard-pressing forward march will be perfect for the fast stepping, fast hands and accurate punching champion.