Russell Jr: “Haymon Promised Me Santa Cruz! I Want Leo!”

Gary Russell Jr Wants Nothing More Than To Fight Leo Santa Cruz!

Gary Russell Jr and Leo Santa Cruz
Gary Russell Jr (left) and Leo Santa Cruz.

Gary Russell Jr gets a promise he hopes will not be broken!

If there is one thing that WBC world featherweight champion “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr (30-1, 18 KO’s) is not lacking in, its dedication. Even at this very moment, he is hard at work preparing for his February 8 next at bat.

On that date, he will face mandatory challenger Tugstsogt “King Tug” Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KO’s) at the PPL Center located in Allentown, Pennsylvania live on SHOWTIME.


Once given notice that Nyambayar was going to be his next opponent, Team Russell snapped into action and launched the necessary investigation. After watching a number of his fights, Mr. Russell deems him to be a worthy and respectable foe. Nevertheless, King Tug is far from the fight he wants.

Had Russell been in possession of his own personal genie lamp to rub, he would have a conjured up a unification bout with one of his fellow featherweight champions as expressed in an interview with Nestor Gibbs. Trouble is, Russell is stranded on the wrong side of a Hollywood movie and stuck with this bout.

“Like I said, I wanted a unification match, you know? We wanted Leo Santa Cruz. We wanted Gervonta “Tank” Davis’, one of these guys.

“Whether the politics or either the fighters themselves the fights didn’t happen for whatever reason. But I still got to do what I got to do to put food on the table for me, myself and my babies, so we dealing with the mandatory challenger.

“Once I knew they made him the mandatory challenger, and that was the guy we were going to have to compete against, of course we did a little research, did a little bit of homework on him.

“We seen what we needed to see. I think he is a pretty good fighter, I think he is a very, very suitable opponent.”

Although there could be some serious light on the horizon.


The WBC champion is well aware that the common knock against him is his sparse fighting schedule. He has only fought once a year since 2015. When he goes through these long stretches of inactivity, however, Russell insists it’s in an effort to hold out for unification bouts.

Yet thus far, he has found it maddeningly difficult to secure those bouts. Although, that might be about to change!

“I was under contract with Al Haymon for pretty much the entire duration of my career up until about four years ago, five years ago. So we still have a good business relationship.

“But I understand that business is business when it comes to certain situations. He’s promised me Leo Santa Cruz immediately after this fight. But God willing we get through this fight, I want Leo.”


Certainly it’s a good day when a boxing powerhouse like Al Haymon puts his stamp of approval on such a solid fight. However, at the moment, it looks like WBA super world featherweight champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KO’s) is heading to pay-per-view with WBA ‘regular’ world lightweight champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (23-0, 22 KO’s).

At least that is the predominant scuttlebutt permeating throughout boxing circles.

Even before Davis stepped in the ring on December 28 to score a twelfth round stoppage over Yuriorkis Gamboa, his promoter Leonard Ellerbe, was on record declaring Tank’s next fight would be on pay-per-view. When, where or what weight class the clash would take place at are still up in the air.

Given that both Cruz and Davis have above average fan bases pulling from the Black and Latino markets, this prizefight is a very logical choice for pay-per-view.

The high stakes scrap would be a dangerous one for Santa Cruz and potentially disastrous for Russell. If Cruz gets clipped and stopped, which many think he will, his promised bout essentially goes up in smoke.

On the flip side, in the event that Santa Cruz defeated Tank, his future bout with the WBC chammpion would be all the more meaningful.

But before Russell can worry too much about a future bout with Santa Cruz, he must first contend with the task that is King Tug.

By: Bakari Simpson

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Bakari is a Senior Writer for Visit to view more of his literary work.