3 More Rounds

Gonzalez relishes underdog role against Russell

Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

Despite his status as the current WBC featherweight champion, Jhonny Gonzalez is seen by many as the underdog heading into his fight with Gary Russell Jr.

This is not the first time Gonzalez (57-8, 48 KO) finds himself in this situation and it does not faze him one bit.

“The media thinks I’m done,” Gonzalez said. “They say Russell is too fast for me. I’m an underdog in this fight. While I don’t let any of the talk bother me, it does give me more motivation to prove to the people that I am for real and that I am a good fighter fight in and fight out.”

Ever since his shocking knockout victory against Abner Mares in 2013, all eyes have been on Gonzalez in the featherweight division. He enjoys the extra attention he has been receiving.

“I definitely know that more people have been watching me since I knocked out Abner Mares,” Gonzalez said. “Knowing that more people are paying attention keeps me motivated, keeps me going strong.”

With 48 of his 57 wins ending in a knockout, it is only natural for people to expect knockouts whenever Gonzalez fights. Although the fans may expect it, he is expecting to fight for 12 rounds and ready to earn a hard-fought victory, knockout or not.

“I’m known for knockouts but I never go into a fight looking for knockouts,” Gonzalez said. “I am ready to fight 12 hard rounds. If the knockout comes, it comes.”

While Gonzalez won’t be looking for the knockout, Russell (25-1, 14 KO) just might be.

“I respect Jhonny Gonzalez like I respect all my opponents,” Russell said. “He worked hard to win the title. I have studied tape of him. I know he is going to come right after me. Gonzalez is a puncher. But I’m a good puncher too. He’s been knocked out before, maybe he’ll get knocked out again.”

Russell suffered the first loss of his professional career last June against Vasyl Lomachenko in what really was his first step up in competition. While Gonzalez once again represents a step up, Russell sees no similarities between the two opponents.

“Gonzalez and Lomachenko are totally different fighters with completely different styles,” Russell said. “Lomachenko may be a bit better overall, but Gonzalez is more of a pure puncher with power. I know Gonzalez has a dangerous left hook. But I’m totally prepared for that and everything else.”

Russell blames a change in training camp for his lackluster performance against Lomachenko. He says he went back to the basics this time around, and it will show on Saturday night.

“In my fight with Lomachenko I was flat. A lot of things went wrong in camp before that fight,” Russell said. “I allowed my conditioning coach at that time to change up all sorts of little things with me, and they wound up working against me.”

“I get another chance on Saturday. I’m ready for it.”

In the co-main event, Vanes Martirosyan (35-1, 21 KO) is set to face Jermell Charlo (25-0, 11 KO) in a super welterweight bout.

“We’re 100 percent ready. I want to thank my trainers Roma, Coach D, my brother, my father. We’re ready to go,” Martirosyan said. “On Saturday I guarantee a victory by knockout. I promise that.”

“Of course, I’m not going out without a fight. I know neither is Vanes. You guys are going to get a fight Saturday night. As simple as this — I come to roar, I come to take over, I come to show guys that you can’t figure us out,” Charlo said.

Gonzalez vs Russell takes place on Saturday, March 28 at The Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and will air on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).

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