Leo Santa Cruz: I’m ready to fight Gary Russell; Maybe he wants to be paid too much

Leo Santa Cruz believes it was Gary Russell Jr., not him, that prevented their long-discussed featherweight showdown from happening.

Santa Cruz suspects that Russell wants to be overpaid for fighting him. The four-league champion did not specify how much money he thinks Russell asked for when Al Haymon discussed the fight with them in the past.

“I thought maybe it was the money,” Santa Cruz told BoxingScene.com. “I don’t know maybe Gary Russell wants to be overpaid or something. But being with me, you know, I don’t care. I will fight him no matter what. But once I say [Haymon] to make the fight, I don’t know, it’s not done. I think maybe, like I said, maybe the guy is money wise, he wants to be overpaid or something.”

Russell-Santa Cruz remains perhaps the most significant fight in featherweight, despite Santa Cruz’s six-round knockout loss to Gervonta Davis in October 2020. If Santa Cruz beats Keenan Carbajal in 5 in the first match since Davis beat him, the Rosemead, California native confirmed that he will finally be ready to fight Russell later this year.

“I’ve always wanted to fight him, ever since we played amateurs,” Santa Cruz said, referring to an amateur match he lost. “It was a good battle. I feel I can beat him. And technically, now that we’re the same weight, I’m ready to fight him. It’s just that the opportunity has come, the battle is not over yet. But if it’s up to me, like I say, I’ll fight him.”

Russell (31-1, 18 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, was a 3-1 favorite to beat Mark Magsayo of the Philippines (23-0, 16 KOs), the required challenger for the WBC featherweight title of the Philippines. him, on a Saturday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Russell, 33, who will end nearly two years of layoffs when he meets Magsayo, is keen to face Santa Cruz next in a 126-pound title unification match.

Santa Cruz, 33, remains the WBA “super” featherweight champion, even though he hasn’t fought in the 126-pound featherweight division for nearly three years.

Russell chastised Santa Cruz and other potential rivals for not fighting him during Thursday’s press conference at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, where the Russell-Magsayo match will take place.

“Stop acting like a bloodsucker and get in the ring – leave it blank, period,” Russell said. “We are gladiators. We are fighters. Be like that and be a warrior. Don’t choose who you will be against. Let’s fight. Like Mark said, you know, he said he was going to show me what Filipinos have to do with what they mean. That is an honor. That’s very honorable, you know, because you don’t just want to support yourself, but your people in general. That’s what you have to do.

“You know, I wish a Leo Santa Cruz was willing to do something like that. You know, I’m pretty sure the Hispanic community would want Leo Santa Cruz to get in the ring and compete and fight. I mean, they might not even care if he loses. They just want to see him fight, show a sense of honor, show integrity.”

Showtime will televise the Russell-Magsayo match as the main event of a three-round match that airs on Saturday from the Borgata Event Center (9 p.m. ET).

Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) and Phoenix’s Carbajal (23-2-1, 15 KOs) are set to complete in 10 feature innings of a FOX Sports Pay-Per-View show on the day. February 5 from Mandalay Bay’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. Keith Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC), of Clearwater, Florida, and Mario Barrios of San Antonio (26-1, 17 KOs) will meet in the main event, a 12-round welterweight bout.

Keith Idec is a writer/senior columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.

https://www.boxingscene.com/leo-santa-cruz-im-willing-fight-gary-russell-maybe-he-wants-get-paid-too-much–163577 Leo Santa Cruz: I’m ready to fight Gary Russell; Maybe he wants to be paid too much

Dustin Huang

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