Gary Russell Jr.’s A Free Agent Shaking Up The PBC Grip

Russell is taking his career in his own hands as he lays out the hit list.

WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs) defended his belt for the fourth time as the co-main event for the Deontay Wilder vs. Dominic Breazeale fight.

Russell fought against former world champion, Kiko Martinez (39-9-2, 28 KOs), opening up a gash that over Martinez’s left eye.

When referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped the fight in the fifth round upon the advice of the ringside physician, it resulted in a technical knockout.

That also might have been the last time Russell fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.

Recently, Russell did an interview where he revealed his free agency status and detailed how he was prepared to do whatever it takes to scratch the names off of his hit list.

“I’m a complete free agent. I’m not with PBC,” Russell said to BoxingTalk.

”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.”

Russell, who was fighting for the first time in a year, showed no signs of ring rust and displayed his full skillset including his trademark lightning-quick hands. The 30-year-old landed on a remarkable 40% of his power punches.

However, Russell’s biggest complaint is that he fights only once a year. Since 2015, When Russell won the WBC featherweight title from Jhonny Gonzalez, Russell has taken on only one challenger a year.

After his successful outing against Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz last year, Russell vowed to fight 6-7 more times before calling it quits on the game. He had a specific list for those fights and the move away from PBC shows he is playing chess not checkers with his strategy.

“I want to maximize our revenue because I dont plan on fighting for too much longer,” Russell said in 2018. “I had my first fight at seven years old. Im 29 now. Thats a long time competing and a lot of wear and tear on your body.”

Russell reiterates this in the Barclays Center after his latest win.

“We want [WBA Featherweight Champion] Leo Santa Cruz,” Russell continued while wearing a shirt that read ‘Leo Next’. “We want to make this fight happen.  The fire is all the way hot on this side of the field.  You will get burned.  I would love for that fight to happen this year. Let’s make it happen.”

Has PBC been trumped by new rules?

When boxing advisor to the stars, Al Haymon created Premier Boxing Champions, he revolutionized the sport.

By taking his stable of advised champions off of TV and leveraging them for time buy broadcast deals on television, Haymon may have missed the mark in relation to where sports entertainment has been going.

Ever since the UFC launched its Fight Pass subscription platform, the fight industry has been prepping for a subscription-based model.

After buying up all the competition except Bellator and housing their libraries, the UFC effectively changed the way you can access international and domestic fight footage.

Now with the UFC and Top Rank Boxing on the ESPN+ platform, the transition was easier for MMA fans while grooming a reticent boxing audience.

DAZN came out of nowhere shaking up the boxing game with high lever signings and baseball-sized athletic contracts. Mixed with the signing of Bellator MMA and Major League Baseball, the sports game shifted around Haymon’s all in strategy.

With fighters like Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz all under the Haymon banner, Russell is looking at securing his future his way. Recently, he was sighted at the Devin Haney DAZN debut in his backyard of Maryland taking pictured with Matchroom Boxing CEO, Eddie Hearn.

Haymon advised fighters like Daniel Jacobs have made deals with Hearn and the normally reclusive Russell might be sending a message by being seen with the supposed competition.

Either way, as boxing continues to have its rebirth, expect the rules to evolve and its athletes to follow suit.


Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.