Lem's Corner: Notebook
By Lem Satterfield
GARY RUSSELL’S SEASON TO BELIEVE IN
In sports there is always a special season for a player or team that fans might remember for the rest of their lives. Gary Russell, Jr. (26-1, 15 KOs), who defends his WBC featherweight title against Patrick Hyland (31-1, 15 KOs) at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., on SHOWTIME on April 16, believes this is that season for himself and his whole division.
“Everything has its season, and this is our season of harvest for the smaller divisions. The timing is germane,” said Russell, winner of two straight since losing a majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO title in June 2014. “You’ve got to shine a light on us, and we’ll deal with these other guys once they’re lined up to fight me and we know that they’re someone that we’re definitely going to compete against.”
Russell dethroned Jhonny Gonzalez by fourth-round stoppage last March after Gonzalez had stopped Abner Mares in the first round, dropping him twice for the WBC crown in August 2013.
Now, the Washington, D.C., resident wants to do damage to his remaining opponents and knows the road might not be easy but it could be fun and exciting for the fans.
“God-willing, we get through this fight, I would love to maybe get a unification bout with a Lee Selby, or I would love to get a Leo Santa Cruz,” said Russell, who has a wife and three daughters ages 7, 3 and 2. “Then, maybe Abner Mares gets a shot at these titles, because his fan base is still strong. I wouldn’t mind going against him. But before my career is done, Lomachenko’s got to see me. That’s pretty much how it is.’’
It’s the season and quite possibly the reason Gary Russell Jr still has a lot to say and prove in sport that he has called his own for 20 years.
ROBERT GARCIA FIRMLY IN ABNER MARES CORNER NOW
Trainer Robert Garcia will be flipping corners when Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) challenges WBA featherweight champion Jesus Cuellar on CBS on June 25.
Garcia was in Cuellar’s corner for two years, including when he won the title against Claudio Marrero in 2013. During his tenure with Garcia, Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) won six fights, including three by KO.
Now, Garcia will be in Mares’ corner when the two meet in a featherweight title showdown.
“I never thought this was going to happen right away where I would be facing Cuellar, but things happen for a reason,” Garcia said.
Garcia said he knew something was brewing by the way that Cuellar was behaving when he trained him for their last fight together a little over six months ago (against Vic Darchinyan). Cuellar has fought once since leaving Garcia, scoring a unanimous decision over Jonathan Oquendo last December.
“Cuellar never talked to me about why he stopped working with me, but if Cuellar hadn’t, I would have never gotten to work with Mares,’’ Garcia said. “I have nothing against Cuellar. He’s a great champion with tremendous power. But this is my job, and if I’m training his opponent now I’m going to do everything that I can that’s possible to get that title from him.”
Garcia said he has already developed a stronger bond with Mares than he did with the 30-year-old Cuellar, who is from Argentina.
“Now that Mares is my fighter, we have a great relationship that has developed into a brotherhood and a friendship. I tell him ‘This is the way we’re going to train,’ he respects me and never complains or says no to anything. But I don’t wish bad on Cuellar, it’s just that this is my job, now, and I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
Mares is on the comeback trail after losing to WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz last August. Before that loss, Mares had won three straight since losing his 122-pound title in a TKO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013.
“The Cuellar title fight is something I asked for, and he’s a tough opponent,’’ Mares said. “But I know this is a fight that I can win. I’ve got a new trainer in Robert Garcia, and a solid strategy to go with being in the best shape that I’ve ever been in.
“I’ve always been a fierce fighter, but I’m working with more strength, speed and power, now. This will be a great fight between two Mexican warriors and one that the fans are going to love. I’m going to come back and capture another title.”
Lem Satterfield is a writer for Premier Boxing Champions. Re-use of any or all of this material must contain proper attribution that reflects that.