Greg Leon: Congrats on another successful title defense against Kiko Martinez (39-9-2, 28 KOs) last night. Can you give us some thoughts on your performance? Gary Russell Jr: "I honestly got to take some time to look at the footage all over again. I feel like I controlled the pace of the fight, I feel like I controlled and dictated everything from round one until the conclusion of the fight."
GL: Before the fight you had a great line talking about you only come around once a year like Santa Claus. You obviously keep yourself in the gym because in each of these annual appearances you've never looked rusty at all. GR: "That's absolutely right, I'm always in the gym. I stay in the gym, we don't take off that much, birthday's, Holiday's, even sometimes anniversaries depending on what time of the year it is, we're in the gym. We don't take off."
GL: I don't believe you on anniversaries. On anniversaries you're busy making the next lil Russell.
GR: (laughs) "It's funny because we recently had a set of twins about six months ago, so that's funny."
GL: Were they conceived on your anniversary?
GR: (laughs very hard) "Hey man...that's funny."
GL: You made it clear to everyone in attendance and viewing on Showtime that you want Leo Santa Cruz next. How confident are you that the fight will happen?
GR: "I'm not sure. I want the fight to happen and I've been trying to get that fight for the past four years ever since I got the world title. The WBC made him the mandatory and he opted to take another fight, I'm not sure what the situation is. I just wanted to make it clear to the fans what it is that I want. I want a unification match and I'm willing to make it happen."
GL: Will you fight again in 2019?
GR: "I'm definitely planning on it. It's very, very possible. I'm going to sit down and spend some time with my babies. If I'm going to fight again this year I wouldn't want it to be against anyone other than Leo Santa Cruz. It depends on how willing they are to make the fight."
GL: If you're fighting again at 126 pounds, is Leo Santa Cruz the only fight that interests you?
GL: So if it's not Santa Cruz you're hoping to get...
GR: (cutting in) "If not Leo, I'm looking to move in weight and fight Miguel Berchelt [WBC 130-pound champion]. I have the WBC title at 126 so that means I can immediately move up and challenge the champion in the next weight division."
GL: What do you think of Berchelt?
GR: "To be honest with you I haven't sat down and watched a full fight of his. I think he's strong, I think he's wide, he's slow, he's flat footed. I think he's tailor made for me. I think my speed and my boxing ability will take over in that fight."
GL: You don't get paid by the round, but after a year off are you disappointed you didn't get more rounds in the other night?
GR: "Not at all. As you can see, he got cut open really, really bad and it was from a punch. The quicker I can get these guys out of there, the less of a chance there is for me to catch an accidental head butt or an elbow, or even give the opponent the possibility of landing something of substance."
GL: You can correct me if I'm wrong on this, but in the first round it looked like you came out looking to assert yourself, backing Martinez up, on some "I can beat you with this way if I want to," and then in round two you began to let him walk into the fire. I really thought you were trying to catch him with a counter uppercut when he was leaning in.
GR: "That's absolutely right, oh my God I was trying to catch him with that uppercut. His corner did some funny stuff too, I don't know if you could catch it on TV, but his corner was literaly sticking their hand into a jar of vaseline and rub it all over his head and face. It was so crazy, because I would land a jab and look for the uppercut and the punch was completely sliding off him. I didn't land on him as cleanly as I wanted to because they had him so vaselined up."
GL: When we spoke before the fight you said Leo Santa Cruz and then Tank Davis. Now you're saying Leo and then Berchelt, or straight to Berchelt. Why is Tank no longer on the immediate things to do list? Do you just think the fight isn't doable?
GR: "To get a shot at the IBF title, I would have to work my way up the rankings in that sanctioning body. I would have to move up and fight somebody before I can fight him. With the WBC I can just move up and get the title fight immediately."
GL: Okay, so you don't want to fight in an elimination bout when you could move up snatch a belt and then unify with Tank, correct?
GR: "Exactly right. I can immediately relinquish my title and challenge the champion at 130, which would be Berchelt. After that I would definitely want to get a unification match."
GL: He's with Top Rank you're with the PBC. Isn't that a difficult fight to make?
GR: "We'll just have to deal with it at that point. That's something I want to do and I'm a complete free agent. I'm not with PBC. We have a great business relationship and we're working with PBC, but I'm not locked in to any manager, promoter or any specific network. I'm 100% a free agent."
GL: Based on the good business you've been doing with the PBC, I imagine it's not a situation you're willing to walk away from if they're backing you, is it?
GR: "It's got to make sense. At the end of the day we do this to provide a sense of stability and protection and foundation for our loved ones. If someone is willing to throw some money in my direction or create a deal that's more than PBC or Showtime is offering then that's more money for me to provide for my family and my loved ones, so it would only make sense for me to go with the better deal, and I have the ability and fluctuation to do so because I'm a complete free agent.
I would love to stay with the team and I'm the only fighter who has made his pro debut on Showtime, no other fighter has done that. I'm the first fighter to do it, so I'm kind of a part of a fraternity with them, but at the end of the day the ultimate goal, and the reason I'm in this profession, just like you have the profession that you have is to provide a sense of foundation, protection and stability for your family. Whichever one is going to give me the best option to do so, it would only be right to go in that direction. I'm making the decisions for what's best for me and my family."
GL: As Rod Tidwell once said, show me the money.
GR: (laughs) "There you go. There you go."
GL: Closing thoughts for the fans.
GR: "I hope I didn't let anybody down, I know you guys are probably upset that you had to see me destroy Kiko Martinez and make it look incredibly easy. I want Leo Santa Cruz, I want unification and if they want to make the fight happen, let's...make...it...happen!"
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