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Written by Ian Wallwork

Gary Russell Jr brought me to an understanding this weekend - that the career of a boxer is a strange one. In football (soccer to my American cousins) a team will have at least one ninety-minute match a week, sometimes up to three. Most players will spend the entire hour and a half running round the pitch, only to repeat it a few days later.

Whereas in boxing a particularly active boxer will have five matches a year. He will train for months to enter the ring in top condition, sometimes to have the fight end in minutes. This is what happened to Gary Russell Jr last night when he took only two minutes and twelve seconds to knock out Heriberto Ruiz.

You wait 75 years for Haley's comet to appear and it is gone in a mere 5 months.  Gary Russell Jr is trying to imitate it.

That's Mr. Gary Russell Jr to You 

Gary Russell Jr is a twenty-three year old, undefeated boxer and goes by the gentlemanly nickname of 'Mr'. Depending what you read, Gary Russell Jr is the next best boxer in the sport, future king of the featherweight division and America's boxing savour. You could say there is some hype surrounding the boxer from Maryland, but is the hype justified?

First, I owe you a confession, person reading this. You've always been honest with me, so it is only fair I do right by you. Two months ago, I wrote a piece on America's Top Five Boxing Prospects, but guess what? I didn't include Gary Russell Jr. I felt there were more accomplished young boxers fighting who had done more than him to warrant inclusion. Last night I changed my mind.

The Gary Russell Jr Flash Knockdown

What is the quickest knockout you have seen? The fastest ever recorded was in a Mineapolis Golden Gloves tournament where Mike Collins took just four seconds to send Pat Brownson to the floor. It took you longer to read the last sentence than it did for Collins to get his knockout.

Gary Russell Jr was not that quick last night, but he was still impressive. There was a lot of hype surrounding him before last nights fight, and Heriberto Ruiz was his toughest opponent to date. Ruiz, who once lost an IBF Bantamweight title fight to Rafael Marquez, is a veteran of the boxing ring, having won forty-seven of his sixty-one fights. By no means a superstar, he was still a step up the ladder for Gary Russell Jr. 

From the first bell Russell Jr was on the offensive, trapping Ruiz in the corner like a Dachshund hunting down a badger. He landed punches with the ease of someone practising in the gym and his speed was such that I struggled to see his fists fly. To his credit, Ruiz did try and make a match of it. He threw tentative punches whenever he could, but they opened him up to more Russell Jr shots.

After two minutes and twelve seconds, the fight-ending punch landed and Ruiz was on the canvas, with the ring doctor shining a light into his pupils. 

Gary Russell Jr's yearbook photo.
The Future for Gary Russell Jr

You might not believe it, but Gary Russell Jr has never fought for a significant boxing title. His father and trainer, Gary Russell Sr, is under the impression that building up his son's boxing skills is more important than hunting down a pretty belt. And he is right.

Russell Jr sits on the outskirts of the featherweight top twenty and in his next couple of fights he will look to take on tougher opposition. There are fighters such as Nicholas Walters (19-0 16KOs) and Elio Rojas (23-1 14KOs) who would gladly make themselves available. For now, getting ring experience and building up his boxing repertoire is the best thing the young boxer can do. 

Eventually, the Maryland prospect is going to want a title, and if he keeps up his development this way, it looks like he will get it.