Undefeated featherweight Gary Russell Jr. was anointed 2011 'Prospect of the Year' by Ring Magazine, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Since that time, he has fought only twice for a total of six rounds against soft opposition. He now prepares to enter the ring tomorrow night against little known Vyacheslav Gusev on a Showtime® televised card that features Richard Abril vs. Sharif Bogere for the vacant WBA lightweight title from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The boxing world is waiting for this talented prospect to take the division by storm, yet it's been one simple downpour after another instead of a full-blown hurricane.
The 24-year old Russell (21-0, 13 KO's) is a National Golden Gloves champion, a two-time US Amateur Bantamweight champion and a member of the 2008 US Olympic team. This southpaw possesses the accuracy and hand speed reminiscent of a young Roy Jones, Jr. and has been consistently brilliant in his conquests in the ring. His obvious talent has many pining for the Capitol Heights, Maryland resident to proclaim a state of emergency by showing what he can do against solid opposition.
After fighting six times in 2011 and getting in some work against experienced journeymen, the Al Haymon-managed Russell was spoon-fed two easy fights in 2012 rather than continuing to build upon his resume and activity level. Alas, not without exposure. He headlined a ShoBox card last November that highlighted the pro debut of five members of the 2012 US Olympic team where he knocked out an outclassed Roberto Castaneda with a single punch in the third round.
His first fight last year was televised in June on the Showtime® televised undercard of the IBF light middleweight title contest between Cornelius Bundrage and Cory Spinks II, making quick work of a timid Christopher Perez with a second round knockdown before finishing him off in the third with two more visits to the canvas.
The storm has since traveled way off course. Russell's opponent tomorrow night, 27-year old Gusev (20-2, 5 KO's), is making only his second appearance outside of his native Russia. The first time he fought on US soil in June 2009, he lost a unanimous 10-round decision to Juan Carlos Burgos. In what will be only Gusev's second fight in almost two years, Russell is expected to blow right past the Russian with a considerable power and skill advantage.
It has become somewhat dreary to continue tracking Russell through such opposition. Given his two-fisted punching power, hand speed and pin-point accuracy, sunny days lie ahead for this young man.
Until he gets out from under the cloud of inadequate match-making, however, this is only a forecast.
Also:Boxing, Gary Russell Jr., Richard Abril, Sharif Bogere, Vyacheslav Gusev