By Ron Harris
During the pandemic, the Russell boxing gym in Capitol Heights, Maryland, was closed to the public but remained open to the Russell family of boxers. Trainer and father, Gary Russell, Sr. was anxious for his sons to get back in action once things in the sport got back to normal. He was wondering what Al Hayman, who runs Premier Boxing Champions and works with the Russell’s, was doing and when were his sons going to get to fighting again?
2016 Olympian, Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KO’s) got back in action recently in Carson, California against his toughest opponent since he turned pro, 13 fights ago. Jovanie Santiago had just gone the distance with multiple world champion, Adrian Broner and did more than hold his own. Many observers thought he beat Broner. Russell had never gone past the 4th round in any fight. Santiago (14-2-1) had never been stopped.
All that changed at the outdoor stadium in Carson. Southpaw, Antuanne, known for his fast starts, attacked Santiago with a stiff jab and a hard straight left hand in the first two punches of the fight. He dominated through out the fight until Santiago’s corner told referee Sharon Sands that Santiago had been so damaged, he could not come out for round 7. It goes in the books as a KO.
“I did what I had to do…. I dominated with style and panazz,” said Antuanne. “We knew Broner did not get him out and I wanted to accomplish more than Broner did.” Russell fights at the super lightweight level, 140 pounds, but looks so much bigger than his opponents. He never let up on attacking Santiago with every punch in his arsenal. In round 4, a body shot was followed with a right hook that caught Santiago square on his face and put him on the canvas. “We talked about that in the corner,” said trainer Gary, Sr. “I told him to attack downstairs and come quickly with the right hook. It was there.”
Santiago, 31, may have thought he could weather the early attack from Russell, and he would slow down, since he had never gone past 4 rounds and had not fought in 15 months. “Santiago throws a lot of punches, and we were prepared for that. He is a tough guy. We saw the punches that would be there in his fighting style,” said the last fighting Russell son. As for going past 4 rounds, “I have boxed 12, 14 and 15 rounds in camp, so I can go past 4 rounds easy,” said Russell. Dad chimed in, “We go 15 rounds, wide open during camp. People are just used to seeing Antuanne get his opponents out early, but he is improving every fight.” Pop is known for grading his son’s performances, “I gave him a B+ on this one. He broke him down with body shots, combinations and pressure all night.”